Here’s why you really need to plan ahead for COVID-19 testing

Sep 29, 2021

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More and more people are getting COVID-19 tested for work, vacation, to see family members or for a general sense of peace of mind.

But if you have travel planned soon, it might be more important than ever to arrange a COVID-19 test in advance or buy an over-the-counter rapid test, as there’s reportedly a shortage of COVID-19 tests.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month warned that there was a shortage of the popular rapid COVID-19 tests, which could increase the demand for laboratory tests.

“There is currently a temporary shortage in point-of-care (POC) and over-the-counter (OTC) test supplies. To help preserve rapid test kits and supplies and meet the current test demand, [the] CDC recommends the use of laboratory-based testing whenever possible,” the CDC said on Sept. 2.

States such as California are also reporting shortages, with less than 10% of testing locations across the state offering rapid antigen tests, according to local news station ABC 10. Several jurisdictions around the country in places like Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio have reported shortages in recent weeks, too.

Reports attribute the shortage to the highly transmissible delta variant, which has fueled a surge in positive cases in the U.S. and abroad. And Travel Weekly reported that shortages are partly the result of the Biden administration’s mandate that companies with more than 100 employees require employees to be vaccinated or face weekly COVID-19 testing.

A testing shortage can significantly complicate your travel plans. Not only is COVID-19 testing required for many international destinations, but U.S.-bound air travelers are still required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

Americans flying abroad for fewer than three days often take a COVID-19 test before leaving the U.S., which is acceptable for reentry. With a testing shortage, travelers would have to take a test outside of the U.S., and several countries are also experiencing shortages.

That’s why you want to solidify your testing strategy in advance of travel — especially as the busy holiday travel season approaches and as the U.S. prepares to open to fully vaccinated international travelers. Several companies, including Abbott, Ellume and Amazon, offer proctored take-home or mail-in COVID-19 testing and generally have quick turnaround times.

Featured photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy

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