Providers seeing surge in demand for at-home tests as delta variant continues to spread

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Posted at 4:39 PM, Aug 18, 2021

GROESBECK, Ohio — Back in March, before the COVID-19 vaccines became available to the general public, Ned Heeger-Brehm was providing an in-demand product for free from the drive-thru window of his branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County: at-home COVID tests.

"We were giving out quite a bit of it," he said. "Then it kind of slowed down."

But now, with the virus' new delta variant surging through the region, Heeger-Brehm said demand has begun to spike again. And with thousands of children — many of whom are not eligible for vaccination — heading back to their classrooms, Heeger-Brehm said he's almost out of stock.

"There's been a recent uptick in the last couple of weeks, and it just went crazy this past week," he said, recounting that hundreds of the at-home test kits have flown off his supply shelf.

"I've had some people say that it's like kids going back to school; they figure they're going to have to get tests for when there's an exposure in school," he said. "I think it is a lot of people going back to work and people visiting people in nursing homes, things like that."

Erlene Robinson was in line Wednesday, waiting to stock up on some at-home tests. She said they're for her grandchildren.

"The test is just ... precautionary to make sure that they're not going to be, you know, affecting other people," she said.

The at-home tests are generally easy to use, according to nurse practitioner and director of health services at Northern Kentucky University Rose Tempel.

"You know, you just go up into the nose (with the swab) about an inch, so it's not painful," she said.

But are they effective in detecting the virus?

Tempel said they're "pretty effective," but mostly when someone is experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

"The effectiveness of people with symptoms is about 95% of picking up a true positive case of COVID," she said, but noted that it's probably not worth administering unless symptoms are present.

But she added that the delta variant has a wider range of symptoms than earlier strains, some that are also common among other illnesses.

"So now, headache, nasal congestion and sore throat seem to be more common of what we see presenting with the delta variant, versus initially (when) it was fever, cough, things like that," she said.

An additional note about at-home tests: Some require the self-swab along with the ability to teleconference with a practitioner over a computer, to guide you through the rest of the testing process.

In addition to the Groesbeck branch, these other branches are offering drive-thru access to at-home tests:

  • Anderson
  • Covedale
  • Delhi Township
  • Downtown
  • Reading
  • Symmes Township

Due to increased demand, library officials recommend calling your local branch first to ensure they still have some in stock.

Anyone not comfortable administering a self-test can also consult their local pharmacy.