Testing scramble continues as novel coronavirus hammers Cincinnati area

·4 min read

The demand for COVID-19 testing remains high in the Cincinnati area as the delta and omicron variants continue to pummel the region. And some locations that have routinely provided tests are without them or in short supply.

So what's your best option? You may want to consider making a testing appointment when you're exposed to the novel coronavirus rather than wait for onset of symptoms, said Tiffany Mattingly, vice president of clinical strategies for the Health Collaborative, the region's joint organization of hospital systems.

Even that could be tough. As of early Monday morning, people who do not work in healthcare and who have no symptoms of COVID-19 but fear they have been exposed to someone infected with the new coronavirus couldn’t get an appointment for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at a local CVS store until Friday.

A driver gets direction on testing for COVID-19 from a Gravity Diagnostics worker Dec. 29 at the Fourth Street parking lot test site in Covington.
A driver gets direction on testing for COVID-19 from a Gravity Diagnostics worker Dec. 29 at the Fourth Street parking lot test site in Covington.

The chain’s website said the appointments Friday – which are likely to be quickly filled – were available only at stores in Batavia Township, Colerain Township, Erlanger, Florence, Latonia, Loveland, Mason, Milford, Montgomery and Mount Healthy.

Walgreens’ website said most of its local stores have few or some appointments available for PCR testing. It said the only stores with many appointments available were in Batavia Township, Fairfield, Hamilton, Harrison and Lebanon.

The resounding advice from health leaders keeping track of the pandemic impact? Go to Test and Protect Cincy at the Health Collaborative website and use its list of no-cost PCR testing sites to schedule an appointment. Just don't expect to get one right away. "It's very difficult to make a same-day appointment," Mattingly said.

And if you opt to get tested at a no-appointment-necessary, drive-thru site such as Gravity Diagnostics' sites in Covington, Fort Mitchell and Florence, check ahead to make sure it's open and if so, be prepared to sit tight in your car. The wait times have averaged at 2½-3 hours "recently with the surge in holiday gatherings, travel plans, and the omicron variant, which has been highly transmissible," the company said in a statement. The company recommends pre-registering online before heading to a testing site.

Lines loop around Gravity Diagnostics' COVID-19 drive-thru testing facility in Covington, Ky. on Thursday, Dec. 30. 2021.
Lines loop around Gravity Diagnostics' COVID-19 drive-thru testing facility in Covington, Ky. on Thursday, Dec. 30. 2021.

Several of the usual public go-to locations for free test kits have exhausted their allotment. Hamilton County Public Health and the eight drive-thru branches of the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public LIbrary have no kits as of now, officials said Monday.

"We are currently out of tests," said Chris Rice of the library district, "and awaiting confirmation from the Ohio Department of Health on when we’ll receive our next shipment." He encouraged patrons to call 513-369-6900 before going to any library branch to get one.

Hamilton County Public Health also is awaiting a shipment from the Ohio Health Department.

"We will let people know via our website – www.hcph.org – and social media when we have test kits available," said spokesman Mike Samet.

Mattingly expects some relief within the coming weeks.

"I anticipate that the National Guard will be helping to support testing here," she said, though the guard has not yet been deployed locally

Crossroads Church West Side in Cleves recently opened a drive-thru site via Ethos Laboratories, Mattingly noted. Appointments can be scheduled through Ethos Labs but Mattingly said the location will also be added to Test and Protect Cincy.

Additional locations are expected to be funded soon through $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds set aside by the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to fill gaps in testing.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus said the board recognizes that the private sector has stepped up in a huge way to cover needs but said she expects funding recipients from the county's allocation to be lined up in mid-January and testing to commence as soon as possible after that.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said that testing is an important component of managing the pandemic, adding that PCR tests are the "gold standard" for COVID-19 testing. He urged people to go to the Test and Protect site to schedule appointments.

"Also, and perhaps most important," Kesterman said, "keep sick (children and adults) at home regardless of if it is COVID or not."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Where can I buy a covid-19 self-test? Test short supply in Cincinnati.

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