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COVID tests hard to come by during holiday rush

CVS workers expected a shipment of 800 take-home kits to be gone within the next 24 hours

ST. LOUIS — In the pandemic era, there is a new addition to the holiday to-do list for many families – get a COVID-19 test.

But crossing that task off the list can be just about as hard as finding that perfect gift at the last minute.

Chain stores, like Walgreens and CVS will close their pharmacies on Christmas Day, but their stores will be open. So, you can take your chances with finding a take-home kit on the shelves.

RELATED: Stores facing limited supply as demand surges for at-home COVID tests

5 On Your Side found only two tests on the shelves at the Walgreens along Page Avenue in North St. Louis County.

About 800 kits arrived around noon Christmas Eve at the CVS in midtown St. Louis, but pharmacy workers predicted they would be gone within 24 hours. They told 5 On Your Side people are buying dozens at a time to test multiple family members before their big celebrations.

Other stores weren’t so fortunate.

Dellwood Pharmacy owner Rebecca Mawhenyega said the test kits she ordered didn’t arrive in time for Christmas, but she did take walk-ins like Akilah and Umarr Gage until about 1 p.m. Christmas Eve for in-person testing.

The couple recently went to a funeral and found out some of their family members had tested positive since then.

RELATED: St. Louis County sees highest single-day COVID case total since early January

“We are fully vaccinated, but we want to know because we could still have the virus and not have any symptoms and pass it to other family members so we're taking that precaution,” Akilah Gage said.

Gage said she feared she wouldn’t be able to schedule a COVID test before Christmas.

“I actually did schedule a drive-through appointment at the Walgreens pharmacy, but it's on Dec. 28, so we’re really excited to get it done today,” she said. “You're anticipating, you want to know what the results are especially when everybody around you is coming up positive.”

The Gages also tried booking a COVID test through a Total Access Urgent Care site and learned online appointment scheduling begins at 6 a.m. daily. They said they tried to book an appointment on Christmas Eve, but all were filled within minutes of them logging on.

Other urgent care centers, including Mercy Go-Health locations, have seen a surge in appointments. 

To get tested at the Kirkwood location, you must have a doctor's referral -- and those are up, too. That location was testing between 100 to 200 people daily before Thanksgiving. On Thursday, Mercy Health workers tested 500 people there. 

By 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the Gages got the phone call they were hoping for – their test at Dellwood Pharmacy came back negative.

They are moving ahead with an in-person celebration for everyone who tested negative.

They spent the rest of Christmas Eve dropping off presents at the houses where other family members weren’t so fortunate.

They will be opening their gifts and joining the celebration virtually.

RELATED: This is how you can be sure you don't spread COVID-19 this holiday season

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