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Fairfax County Public Library runs out of COVID-19 tests in first hour of availability

A rapid COVID-19 at-home testing kit (via Jernej Furman/Flickr)

Fairfax County Public Library offered at-home COVID-19 test kits to the community for the first time this morning (Friday). An hour later, they were all gone.

The county announced on Monday (Nov. 29) that it would join a pilot program that the Virginia Department of Health launched last month to distribute free COVID-19 tests through participating public libraries.

FCPL received 2,300 BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Card Home Test that were made available at its 13 open community branches and eight regional libraries when they opened at 10 a.m. today.

All of the kits were distributed within the first hour, according to FCPL spokesperson Erin Julius, who says demand was high at all branches.

“The high demand for these test kits this morning indicates a continued need for accessible COVID-19 testing kits in Fairfax County, and FCPL is pleased to help distribute them,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said. “Libraries are trusted community hubs and we are glad to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community by making testing kits more accessible. We will continue to distribute tests as more are made available to us.”

Julius said the state is sending more test kits that will arrive next week, but she advises residents to call their local branch to ensure their availability before visiting. The library system also asks that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms request a kit using its contactless curbside pickup service.

VDH says the number of test kits distributed to participating localities depends on the size of each library system and feedback about how much interest they expect in the program, along with the general availability of supplies.

“The uptake varies,” VDH spokesperson Cheryl Rodriguez said. “However, some library systems are reporting that distribution has been brisk.”

According to VDH data, COVID-19 testing has been trending upwards in the Fairfax Health District since early November, with a spike seen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).

Fairfax County joined the state’s library test kits pilot slightly later than the other participating localities, but the move comes amid rising COVID-19 cases and renewed anxiety over the new omicron variant, which was confirmed in the U.S. for the first time on Wednesday (Dec. 1).

The Fairfax County Health Department said there has been increased demand for testing throughout Virginia recently, and offering free test kits at libraries gives people an alternative when retail supplies have been low.

Rapid COVID-19 tests have been in short supply since this summer after declining testing rates led manufacturers to decrease production. As infections surged again due to the delta variant, the federal government committed over $560 million to help boost the country’s supply.

“During the late summer months and early fall, many states across the country experienced limited access to rapid testing kits, due in part to slower production,” Rodriguez said. “However, production is increasing and more rapid tests should become available.”

Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr

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