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Demand for COVID-19 tests surge ahead of Christmas holiday

Stores across Northeast Ohio are posting signs indicating COVID-19 at-home tests have sold out.

CLEVELAND — COVID-19 numbers are much higher than the experts wanted heading into the holidays. Now the demand for testing kits is far outpacing the supply.

Nationwide, finding a COVID test is a challenge.

"I think we were prepared for a certain surge, but the wave that we're seeing right now is just a straight up line. So it's really difficult to get a test right now whether you're looking at the healthcare system or on the shelves," says Dr. David Margolius from MetroHealth.

Locally, stores are posting signs indicating tests have sold out. Demand for COVID-19 tests are surging along with rising case counts as the holiday weekend quickly approaches.

RELATED: COVID-19 testing: What you need to know about at-home test kits, testing locations

"To have this issue right now 2 years after this pandemic began is very dismaying. For me, I've experienced it first-hand. But persevere," advises infectious disease researcher Dr. Mark Cameron. 

Cameron says at-home tests are a vital tool as people decide their plans for the holidays. Margolius agrees. 

"In general, they're great. If you have them, use them and trust them," Dr. Margolius explains. "They're really nearly as accurate as the ones that we do in the hospital and they show up positive only if someone's contagious." 

But you have to be lucky enough to get one. Summit County Public Health depleted its supply in just two days time. 

"We received on Thursday night of last week another 5,000," says Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda. "We gave out 1,800 on Friday, and we just ran out here. We gave out 3200 this morning."

Earlier this year, Marla Zwinggi spent countless hours a day tracking down vaccines for members of the community when they weren't widely available. She's known by many as the "Vaccine Queen" because of it.

Today, she's spending countless hours tracking down COVID  tests, using her Vaccine Queens Facebook page to let people know she can help.

"I live in Geauga County, and I said, 'If you are feeling sick or having symptoms, or you feel like you've been exposed or know you've been exposed, stay at home,'" she told us. "'I'll go out and get a test and throw it in your mailbox.'"

But like others, she's having trouble finding tests, and the current state of the pandemic makes her emotional.

"I say [it] to my husband every day: 'I don't understand,'" she lamented. "We certainly never pushed vaccine on anyone, but you either have to vaccinate or wear a mask, and I wish that people could think beyond themselves for the greater good."

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a test, don't use it too far in advance.

"The ideal time to test with an at-home test before seeing loved ones would be the morning of," advises Margolius.

That way, you have the most up-to-date data on whether you're contagious or not. And if you have any symptoms of a cold, just stay home, regardless of what tests say. 

Right now, home test kits are more readily available outside of densely populated areas. Also, the Ohio National Guard will open a mass testing site in University Circle operating through the end of the week. You need to register in advance. Click here for more.

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