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Fairfax County libraries run out of COVID-19 tests, with timing of next shipment unknown

Fairfax County Public Library is all out of COVID-19 rapid tests once again.

The library system has received 34,652 test kits since Dec. 1 as part of the Virginia Department of Health’s free testing kit pilot program, but as of 10:30 a.m. today (Tuesday), they have all been distributed.

“We are distributing these tests as part of a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, which sends us the tests,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said. “We know VDH is working hard to distribute tests throughout the state, including to other libraries participating in this pilot program.”

Interest in the take-home test kits has been high since they were introduced in 21 of the county’s public library branches on Dec. 3, when supplies were gone within an hour of their availability.

While FCPL has received thousands of additional kits since then, community members will have to turn to other sources if they want to get tested during the holidays, since it’s unclear when the next shipment will arrive.

“We do hope to get in tests soon after the Christmas holiday but don’t have a firm delivery scheduled yet,” Hudson said.

Fairfax County residents aren’t alone in making a run for COVID-19 tests amid rapidly rising cases, fueled by the more transmissible delta and omicron variants. Arlington County Public Library announced this morning that it was also out of kits and doesn’t anticipate its next shipment coming until next year.

In an emailed statement, VDH attributed the gap in shipments to a combination of increased demand for testing, national supply chain issues, and the upcoming holidays:

Kit availability at a given location is subject to supply. VDH does not guarantee that all participating libraries will always have supply available. Additionally, demand spiked last week, over previous weeks. That along with the holiday and supply chain issues on a national level have impacted supplies. VDH continues to supply test kits to participating libraries; deliveries may be impacted by holiday closures or other factors.

FCPL will be closed this Friday and Saturday (Dec. 24-25) as well as New Year’s Eve and Day.

Pharmacies and COVID-19 testing sites across the country have reported overwhelming demand in recent days, with supplies slow to ramp up after manufacturers decreased production earlier this year. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a federal program today that will mail 500 million free at-home kits next year.

In the Fairfax Health District, testing encounters have climbed from a seven-day moving average of 3,620 on Nov. 28 to 6,075 as of Dec. 17, according to VDH data. Over that same time period, the rate of positive tests has increased from 4.6% to 7.4%.

While the Fairfax County Health Department primarily encourages testing for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or have encountered someone with symptoms or a positive diagnosis, there are a number of available testing sites, including some that provide free or low-cost options and accept individuals who don’t have insurance.

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