COVINGTON, Ky. — Demand for COVID-19 home test kits is driving traffic into hospitals, clinics and drive-thru testing sites. Some expect it to last through the new year, while public health leaders hope people heed a familiar warning.
"We'd like to have tests for you, but if you can't get your hands on one, please just keep your sickness at home," Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said.
Kara Pelicano struggled to find a test.
"It is pretty impossible to find any rapid test," Pelicano said as she waited in her car for two hours at Gravity Diagnostics' drive-thru test site in Covington Tuesday.
Home test kit demand drained supplies from Clermont to Clinton County. Six public library systems ran out, as did all Greater Cincinnati YMCA branches and the Hamilton County Public Health Department. Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said he is worried about people unable to find tests crowding already busy emergency rooms or choosing to fight through symptoms at work.
"They don't get compensated when they are sick, so they'll just go to work sick and then they end up spreading it to everybody because they have to support their family somehow," Jody Waldron of Adams County said.
Pelicano had no such choice. With Cincinnati's Test and Protect rapid testing options few and limited to only Hamilton County residents and workers, she turned into the Covington drive-thru site.
"I work at a bar and coffee shop," she said. "I have to get tested before I work every time."
Over an hour east, all four Adams County Public Library branches told WCPO 9 News they had plenty of kits available Tuesday afternoon.
The Warren County Health District also had limited stock; however, staff planned to only give them to people with symptoms. Like peers around the region, their strategy is to prevent spread and minimize the number of people in hospitals.
"Tests are great because they help you understand if you have COVID or not," Kesterman said. "But really right now is not the time to spread any kind of illness. Our hospital systems are busy. We know that if somebody gets the flu our hospitals are going to have a tough time treating you because they're at capacity. So for anyone who wakes up today, has a little bit of a sore throat, maybe a slight cough, we don't want you to go out. We want you to stay home."