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COVID-19 test supply 'very healthy' as winter looms and case numbers rise

Ohio's Department of Health says the state is very well-positioned to have COVID-19 tests available throughout the winter. Tests are currently widely available at pharmacies across the area.
Stephanie Czekalinski
Ideastream Public Media
Last winter, many struggled to find tests during an omicron variant surge. This year, ODH and private pharmacies say tests are widely available.

With newly emerging COVID-19 strains and indoor holiday gatherings on the horizon, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) says that the state has a "very healthy" supply of tests warehoused and is well-positioned for winter.

Last year, many families struggled to find tests as the omicron variant fueled a surge of infections just before the holidays and people struggled to determine if it was safe to get together.

This year, the state said all indications are that test production capacity is high as there doesn't seem to be any big reason to be concerned about availability. Too private sector pharmacies say their supply lines are flowing. CVS Health said at-home COVID-19 tests are widely available at their locations and in-store testing remains obtainable.

In recent weeks, COVID-19 community levels have begun to rise in Northeast Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Levels are high in Erie, Huron, Lorain, Mahoning, Sandusky and Trumbull counties. In Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties, community levels are now at medium. Community levels are determined by taking into account the number of COVID-19 infections, hospital admissions and the share of beds occupied by people with the virus, according to the CDC.

Statewide, the three-week average number of cases, ICU admissions and hospitalizations have all edged up, according to the Ohio Department of Health. But deaths have so far have remained steady.

During the case surges last year, many Ohioans turned to libraries as sources of tests. Now, that tests are much more easy to find ODH, who supplied the libraries with those tests, said it has changed gears.

"We have shifted our focus to first meet the needs of long-term care facilities, schools and higher education, and vulnerable populations," a spokesperson wrote.

Libraries and local health departments can still receive free tests regularly from the state, but they can also opt out of shipments if they don't need more, ODH said.

Schools can also request tests from the state. Throughout the pandemic, ODH said it distributed 1.38 million tests to schools. ODH has also sent nearly 4 million tests to long-term care facilities across the state and contracts with laboratories to conduct PCR tests at those facilities.

PCR tests are considered more accurate but take longer to produce results.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.