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

Demand for the tests is surging and pharmacy chains are struggling with supply in the St. Louis area.

ST. LOUIS — A lot of people are trying to get their hands on an at-home rapid COVID test before spending time with loved ones over the holidays.

The Biden administration announced Tuesday it will provide 500 million free at-home tests but they won't ship until January and some stores failing to keep the tests in stock just when many need them most.

RELATED: Yes, you’ll need to make a request to get a free at-home COVID-19 test from the government

Doctors say a rapid test can be a quick way to make holiday gatherings safer if done right. 

"For a test to be most effective it needs to be done as close to the time that people are getting together as possible because the situation can change," said Dr. Steven Lawrence a Washington University Infectious Disease Specialist at Barnes Jewish Hospital.

"Just because you tested negative a day or two ago doesn't mean you haven't recently acquired the infection," Dr. Lawrence said. 

But demand for the tests is surging and pharmacy chains are struggling with supply in the St. Louis area.

The Walgreens website show stock is low, and late Tuesday CVS was out of test. 

"We continue to work around the clock to provide our stores with inventory of the five over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests we offer..." CVS said in a statement. 

"To ensure equitable access to tests both in-store and digitally, we’ve added a limit of six test kits per purchase. Due to a recent surge in demand, and to retain community-based access to tests in our stores, there may be temporary out-of-stocks for these products on CVS.com. We’re committed to providing families with protection and peace of mind during the holiday season, and we continue to offer access to lab-based testing with results available in 1-2 days or rapid COVID-19 testing at more than 4,800 CVS Pharmacy locations," the statement continued.

And there are state and local testing sights planned around St. Louis that are often free like the one Tuesday at the Northwoods NAACP St. Louis County office where more than 100 people were tested.

"We've had tremendous turnout a lot people making sure they're taking care of themselves and their families for the holidays," said John Bowman the President of the NAACP in St. Louis County.

But doctors say testing won't catch every early infection, so other measures need to be taken.

"One of the safest things we can do is mask indoors with other people who we don't live with," said Dr. Lawrence. 

For more information on testing sites click here.

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