Having trouble finding a COVID test in the DC area? A recent surge in demand could be to blame

FILE - In this April 24, 2020 file photo, a resident undergoes a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect the presence of COVID-19 at a testing site affiliated with the Methodist Health System, in Omaha, Neb. On Friday, July 30, 2021 The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online that misrepresented a move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to phase out an early PCR coronavirus test.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)(AP/Nati Harnik)
More people are getting COVID-19 tests these days, and some local labs are seeing surges that could make finding a test a little more difficult.

“The demand this time of year is going to continue to increase,” said Blake Lackey, senior director of operations for coronavirus testing at Curative, which has a lab in D.C.

He said that they’re seeing a 20% to 25% increase in the number of tests they’re administering.

“We have increased our testing sites and within the next week — with what we’re bringing to Alexandria, and bringing to Prince William County — potentially we will have doubled our testing sites in the DMV,” Lackey said.

The three-day daily average for COVID-19 tests in Montgomery County, Maryland, was almost 5,000 on Friday. Compare that to 2,333 in mid-July, according to the Montgomery County coronavirus dashboard.

Dr. Heba Mostafa, an assistant professor of pathology with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said they’re seeing an increase from about 900 tests a day to 1,200 per day.

“There is, in general, an increase in breakthrough infections and symptomatic infections. So this warrants testing in most of the situations,” Dr. Mostafa said.

Walgreens told WTOP that it is seeing an increased demand for COVID-19 testing across the country and that it is currently able to meet the demand. The company said it has the capacity to perform millions of tests each month across more than 6,000 testing locations nationwide.

It also said that the company may experience intermittent delays in supply in some areas, but are “working with all of our testing partners to meet patient demand.”

CVS tells WTOP that it is currently limiting the number of tests that people can buy to six online and four over the counter. CVS currently offer free testing at around 5,000 locations and have administered 30 million tests to date.

Mostafa said that increased requirements, such as COVID tests for work, to travel or have surgery, could be causing the surge in demand.

She said the best decision for symptomatic people is to go to a doctor’s office for testing.

“We should be aware that not all the testing is actually done for symptomatic patients, actually, more testing is done for non- or asymptomatic patients for those other reasons,” Mostafa said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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