Southwest Virginia libraries see shortage in rapid COVID-19 tests as Christmas approaches


SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — If you’re heading to a southwest Virginia library for a free COVID-19 test, expect to run into some difficulty finding one.

The Salem Public Library received a shipment of 150 tests on Friday, Dec. 17 and ran out on Monday, Dec. 20. That’s the story for plenty of libraries across the Commonwealth.

The director of the Salem Public Library, Ann Tripp, says they have been overwhelmed with calls and visits from people asking for the free coronavirus test.

“We do ask people not to stockpile them, they do expire so we do ask people to get them when you need them…when you anticipate needing them…when you anticipate seeing family and friends and things like that,” said Tripp.

Officials say that Roanoke Public Libraries also ran out of COVID-19 antigen test kits on Monday amid increased transmission and rising case numbers.

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have seen a renewed interest from community members in these free, 15-minute COVID-19 tests being distributed at libraries as part of a rapid test program spearheaded by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The popularity of the tests has been increasing as the winter holiday season draws closer.

(Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR News)

According to Christie Wills with the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, “Early in the month, Roanoke City libraries were giving out about 100 tests a week, and on Saturday, they gave out 600 in one day alone.”

She isn’t sure when the libraries’ supplies will be replenished, but says they did put in an order for additional tests.

“The state sends those tests straight out to the libraries. They don’t come through the local health department, so they are getting them out as efficiently and quickly as they possibly can and I know that they had them ordered for a while, so it’s just a matter of when we’re going to get them in,” said Wills.

Tripp told WFXR News the Salem Public Library isn’t expecting anymore tests until after the new year, saying, “We’re working really hard to make sure that we have these on the shelves as quickly as we can and we do run out you can be sure that we already reordered for a resupply before we even go empty on the shelves.”

Both health officials and public libraries ask for people to be patient.

The VDH has partnered with 38 library systems around the Commonwealth to offer at-home COVID-19 testing kits for free, so if you cannot get a rapid coronavirus test at one library, you may be able to find one at another facility nearby.

Meanwhile, the VDH recommends that you practice mitigation strategies like social distancing, opening windows, and masking if you do gather for the holidays.

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