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Demand for free at-home COVID tests exceeds supply in Travis County

A sign notes the site is out of at-home COVID testing kits at Travis County Community Center at Oak Hill.
Michael Minasi
A sign notes the Travis County Community Center at Oak Hill is out of free at-home COVID testing kits.

Public health officials have been highlighting the value of taking a COVID-19 test before gathering with friends and family for the holidays, but finding at-home tests is not easy.

On Tuesday, Travis County offered free boxes of 20 at-home test kits. Before 11 a.m. Wednesday, all six community centers distributing the kits were out and had to turn people away.

Workers fielding calls for appointments from people looking for tests asked people to try calling the Texas Health and Human Services Commission at 211. That line directed people back to Travis County community centers or Austin Public Health. Austin Public Health does not provide rapid tests.

Travis County received 2,100 tests at the end of November and was distributing them to its food pantry clients. Hector Nieto, a spokesperson for the county, said it distributed the remaining 1,362 kits to the general public on Tuesday and Wednesday before running out.

“We have placed additional orders for test kits,” Nieto told KUT. “I don’t have a timeline as to when we expect to have those kits in stock.”

He said the test kits are paid for using money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Local stores still had some rapid tests in stock, but said they were selling out quickly.

In an address from the White House on Tuesday, President Biden said his administration would make sure the U.S. is producing as many tests as quickly as possible. He said the government plans to buy a half-billion at-home test kits and mail them directly to Americans who request them starting next month.

Sangita Menon is a general assignment reporter for KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.
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