After weathering omicron crush, CVS and Walgreens removed their limits on buying at-home tests
By Esha Ray
For the past few months, those Americans who had been lucky enough to find at-home coronavirus tests in stores had been kept from buying more than a few at a time so that stores could keep up with the surging demand.
But that is changing at nearly all CVS and Walgreens locations nationwide as of this past week. A CVS spokesperson, Matthew Blanchette, confirmed Saturday that the pharmacy chain had increased its inventory of over-the-counter rapid test kits and removed all limits “on those products at CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide and on CVS.com.”
A Walgreens representative also said Saturday that because of “improved in-stock conditions,” the company had removed its purchase limit of at-home tests at almost all its locations.
Both companies announced in late December that they would cap the number of tests bought in stores and online to keep up with demand as the highly contagious omicron variant spread. CVS said it would allow the purchase of six tests per person; Walgreens would allow four. And still, many consumers regularly found empty store shelves when shopping for test kits.
The issue of testing shortages in the United States has persisted since the beginning of the pandemic, revealing just how much the Biden administration has struggled to meet demand as it has largely focused on getting people vaccinated.
Last month, the administration unveiled a website where Americans could order four free at-home tests per household through the Postal Service. The White House said that it had already mailed out tens of millions of tests. But the delivery schedule has been patchy, with some receiving their tests right away while others are still waiting.
In the latest federal effort to deliver more rapid tests, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said this past week that Medicare, which covers roughly 60 million Americans, would provide free kits beginning in “early spring.”
Enrollees, most of whom are 65 or older, will be able to get up to eight tests per month, the same number covered for privately insured Americans as part of new requirements announced in January.
While the omicron-driven surge may be showing signs of waning in many parts of the country, the tests could help Medicare recipients, some of the most vulnerable Americans, in possible future surges.