Holidays increasing demand for at-home COVID tests

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In a month filled with holiday gatherings, and with insurers now required to pick up the cost, at-home COVID tests are flying off the shelves.

A pharmacist at a CVS in Colchester said 500 tests stocked a week ago were gone within 48 hours. At Walgreens in Essex Junction, a cashier said the antigen tests are their hottest item

Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease expert at UVM Medical Center, said the tests will help reduce transmission of the virus.

“I think it’s likely that more and more people are going to be using the home tests to get a sense of whether its safe to go to that Christmas party or New Years party, and that’s great,” Dr. Lahey said. “The tolerable downside is that it makes it a little bit harder for the state to know exactly how many cases are happening.”

Commissioner Michael Pieciak of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation announced earlier this week that health insurers are now required to reimburse the cost of the at-home tests. He said demand for testing in general was already high.

“Just to give you a sense of the scope, we did about 78,000 tests last week, so more than 10 percent of the Vermont population got tested in one week,” Pieciak said. “That’s not the first time that’s happened.”

Earlier this week, Governor Phil Scott said it’s important to adapt to that demand.

“Vermont has led the nation in testing, but we must continue to adapt and improve our strategies as we move forward,” Governor Scott said. “At home tests will increasingly be an effective and widely used tool for managing the virus, and expanding access is a priority for my team.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer is also making a push to expand the availability and affordability of the tests in New York.

“We should be arming the public with at-home tests to stay ahead of this variant into the winter,” Schumer said.

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