The omicron variant and an increase in COVID-19 cases in Chicago are forcing people to scramble to find tests before the holidays.
Most of the sites WTTW News visited on Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with people trying to get a COVID-19 test, including people looking at local pharmacies for quick home kits.
CVS and Walgreens are now limiting the number of home COVID-19 tests customers can purchase due to increased demand for these tests. At Walgreens people are only allowed to buy four boxes per person, while at CVS there is a limit of six test kits per customer. The problem now is to find them.
“They didn’t have them. CVS had a sign saying they didn’t have them and I’m assuming the same here, ”said Rogers Park resident Lindsay Reiff. “I also tried to get a PCR test and this was only available on the 27 (December). It’s hard to know what’s going on, but it’s definitely over there, and I’ll probably start staying home more often.
CVS and Walgreens both said they are aware that many local stores and across the country are temporarily out of stock and are working with manufacturers to get more.
They encourage people to get tested in their labs as they work to minimize the time it takes to get results. With the omicron variant being of concern, testing facilities across town are seeing a spike in people trying to get tested in hopes they can travel or safely reunite with their families for the holidays.
“We’re supposed to go to my aunt’s house in Schaumburg and meet the family, but since she’s a nurse, she doesn’t know it right now because of COVID,” said Eric Hernandez, a resident of Albany Park. “So we’re like that right now. “
A mother and daughter were eager to spend Christmas with their extended family, but they say those plans were canceled when loved ones tested positive for COVID-19.
“We were all going to test before we met. We were going to Michigan and we had an Airbnb where we were all going to meet for a few nights, ”said Julia Siple, Rogers Park resident. “We knew that once I had friends around me who tested positive, even though we were all vaccinated and being very careful, we kind of knew that could happen.”
Health officials announced a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases in the city and state this week alone. The vice president and chief of nursing at the Swedish hospital, which is part of the Northshore system, said most of the patients they admit have mild symptoms.
“We are seeing more and more people coming for testing, and we are looking for people to be vaccinated and to receive the booster,” said Kathy Donofrio, head nurse at the Swedish hospital. “We see in the hospital the number of hospitalizations also increase. The vast majority are not vaccinated and we really encourage everyone to get vaccinated and get the booster. “
On Peterson and Claremont, a line of cars filled a test site offering rapid tests, a PCR test, and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Hernandez decided to roll up his sleeve to get the vaccine after seeing more of his family contract COVID-19.
“I’m young. I’m a veteran, to me I thought it was like I was a superhero. My family once had it and I never had it, but I know it’s getting increasingly serious and I see my grandparents’ health deteriorating with age, ”he said.
At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the drive-thru line for testing wrapped around the building. Other walk-in and appointment-only clinics experience wait times of an hour or more for people to get tested. A woman took to Twitter to express her frustration at standing in line for three hours.
“It’s a bit tricky because a lot of people have very mild symptoms, and it’s hard to understand: do I have a cold? Do I have the flu? So it’s good that they get tested, so that they know for sure and that they don’t bring this to their families and other members of the community, ”Donofrio said.
The White House promises to buy and distribute 500 million rapid home tests starting in January.