As the highly infectious Omicron variant fuels a surge in coronavirus cases — as well as demand for testing — Los Angeles County health officials have paused a home testing program for residents as they contend with an accumulation of kits.
The program shipped free at-home nasal swab tests to residents experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or those who’ve had a known exposure, according to the L.A. County Department of Health Services.
Health officials temporarily halted the program Wednesday, citing “a current backlog in the logistics of processing these kits,” the health services department said in an email.
A cap of 4,000 home test kits a day was implemented to “ensure the kits are sent, received and processed in a timely manner,” the department said.
It’s not clear when the program will resume, but department officials said an announcement would be posted on the website as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, Health Services said it will provide details about a new program next week.
The new program will permit L.A. County residents to pick up and drop off tests at designated locations, which “will allow us to increase capacity and further address the current demand,” Health Services said in a statement.
Under the current program, Fulgent Genetics sends testing kits to those who qualify via FedEx, along with a prepaid overnight shipping envelope. Residents are instructed to collect a sample from their nose, package it and either schedule a pickup from FedEx or drop it off at a lab. Results are sent within 48 hours.
The original program was billed as “holiday testing” in the Health Service’s website address, and what began as a temporary service in 2020 was relaunched over the recent holiday season to meet a surge in demand, according to reporting by KTLA-TV.
As Omicron spreads, there has been an increased demand for testing.
The crush has led to a shortage of at-home tests, prompting some pharmacies and stores to limit the number of tests each customer can buy.
Long lines and frustration have also become the norm at many testing sites.
“Due to the national shortage of COVID tests, and the incredibly high demand for testing locally, long wait times are now unfortunately common,” Terry Kanakri, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente Southern California Region, said in a recent statement.
In the last seven days, about 23% of the 464,849 tests conducted in Los Angeles County have returned a positive result, according to The Times tracker.