COVID-19 Testing Availability is Inadequate


Hadley Norris

With a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, COVID-19 testing availability is inadequate at a time when testing is essential. Graphic courtesy of Hadley Norris.

With the Omicron variant of coronavirus rapidly spreading, the demand for COVID-19 testing has increased immensely, but testing availability is not keeping up. At-home tests rapid tests are hard to come by and even in-person tests are being delayed. Steps should be taken to make testing easily accessible as soon as possible in order to maintain people’s safety.

While the pandemic continuously spreads, not being able to find a COVID-19 test limits protection against catching the virus. No one should have to be told there isn’t an available COVID-19 test for them whether they’re experiencing symptoms, have been exposed to the virus, or just want to be extra cautious. Now, when one in three Texans are testing positive for COVID-19 despite other precautions, testing is more important than ever.

The main cause of COVID-19 tests being harder to come by is a matter of an increased demand for testing and not enough tests to keep up with the demand for them. Even if a person gets tested, results have been getting delayed because the large demand for testing slows the process down. Especially now, testing isn’t as available because it is just after the holidays when school and work are starting back up, and the Omicron variant is spreading faster than other variants.

Even people who manage to make appointments to get tested at locations such as doctors’ offices and pharmacies are not receiving results quickly. When before many people could receive results the same or next day, now it could take more than three days. This brings up a whole set of issues about what precautions should be taken during that wait time, such as matters of quarantining.

The nation was not prepared for this surge in COVID-19 cases when they should’ve been. In some ways, this lack of availability in testing was unavoidable with Omicron being unpredictable, however knowing that more people get tested around the holidays should’ve been at least one indicator that there would be an increase in the demand for testing.

The fact is, access to COVID-19 testing is inadequate and while steps are being taken to solve the issue, it will be a while. President Joe Biden is planning to have 500 million COVID-19 at-home tests available for free, but this new initiative will take time and likely won’t be ready by Omicron’s expected peak, which is this month. Fortunately, this is a step in the right direction, but initiatives to make more tests available should’ve taken place sooner.

No matter the cause of the lack of COVID-19 testing, the issue needs to be solved as efficiently as possible. Omicron is only continuing to spread, and testing is among one of the most important defenses. That defense cannot be lost, especially now with Omicron on the rise.