BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With the arrival of the omicron variant during the winter holidays, one local pharmacist said demand for testing and vaccinations has slightly increased.
While the Kern County Public Health dashboard still shows zero cases of the variant, 23ABC spoke with a local doctor and pharmacist about what they have seen in the area.
“I think it is already here, you know we may not be quite testing the right people for it,” said Hemmal Kothary, Chief Medical Officer for Dignity Health Mercy Hospitals. “Cause when we test at the hospital levels, at the pharmacies and home testing, we are just checking for COVID, we are not checking for what variant it is, but I guarantee it is already here in town.”
Timeline: COVID-19 Omicron Variant
Kothary told 23ABC COVID case numbers continue to climb down in our area, and he has yet to see an increase in residents getting tested in the er or being hospitalized.
The doctor hopes those who gathered this past holiday and will ring in the new year this weekend are vaccinated and boosted to help prevent any future outbreaks.
“If you are wanting to get tested, try to stay away from the ERs, go to the urgent cares, to the pharmacies. We want to obviously test you if you need to be tested but if you have mild symptoms there are other places to go to,” said Kothary.
It seems that is what people are doing, as a local pharmacist at Inovia Pharmacy said he has seen more people come in for tests and vaccines recently.
“With the new year, as families are coming together it is very important to get tested. Whenever you are in doubt, whether you have symptoms or you are around somebody that tested positive, you should get tested either using the home test kits or the traditional test at the pharmacy,” said Yasser Haykao, pharmacist, co-owner of Inovia Pharmacy.
The at-home test kits are becoming very hard to find across the state and country.
Some of the biggest pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens showing them out of stock for shipping online.
CVS said this is to make sure each community has access to tests, instead of leaving areas dry by shipping out inventory.
Even then, finding them in-store has been a struggle. Both addressed the issue in statements.
“To ensure equitable access to tests both in-store and digitally, we’ve added a limit of six test kits per purchase. Due to a recent surge in demand, and to retain community-based access to tests in our stores, there may be temporary out-of-stocks for these products on cvs.com,” said CVS in a statement.
Walgreens also issued a statement.
“As the nation experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases coinciding with the holidays, we are seeing unprecedented demand for testing services… due to the incredible demand for at-home rapid testing, we put in effect a four-item purchase limit on-at-home COVID-19 testing products in our stores and digital properties in an effort to help improve inventory while we continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands,” said Walgreens.
For now, Haykao said they have not had difficulty keeping the at-home test kits stocked and still offer walk-in rapid and PCR tests at the pharmacy.