“Sold out.” “Sold out.” “Sold out.”
With the COVID-19 omicron variant continuing its rampage across the state, residents are racing — scavenger hunt-style — to find at-home antigen tests to assess their exposures, and extra-protective masks to guard against catching the virus. But with cases rising and supplies limited, many shoppers have only found empty shelves and “Sold out” signs.
“Everybody’s having trouble getting rapid testing right now,” said John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus at UC Berkeley. “It’s a terrible problem.”
Swartzberg offers one major piece of advice to desperate test-seekers: “Be persistent. Call around to pharmacies, and look online.”
He adds that people who experience symptoms consistent with those of COVID but cannot find available testing should assume they are infected and follow the prescribed protocols.
Some members of the community are taking matters into their own hands, sharing information about where to find tests on social media. Beth Stanley, for one, started the San Francisco COVID-19 Vaccine Help group on Facebook, where community members can provide pandemic resources and encouragement online.
After a period of buying and distributing tests herself, Stanley came across a COVID-test channel on the app Telegram, which sends her automated messages whenever a testing kit becomes available online. She then put links to the available tests on her Facebook page for subscribers to purchase.
Stanley posts updates so often that she’s wound up in “Facebook jail” multiple times — her account flagged and temporarily suspended for commenting repetitive information.
“I don’t care that I got in trouble,” she said. “I feel like I got the info out to people who needed it at the time.”
Other members in the community have stepped in to help when Stanley is behind social media bars — or sleeping or taking care of her family. “It’s social media at its best, really,” she said.
The massive demand for testing — both the at-home rapid tests and appointments for PCR tests administered at clinics and official testing sites — follows the country’s largest surge in cases since the start of the pandemic three years ago.
“Omicron is just so much more transmissible than anything we’ve encountered before that we need to maximize all of our non-pharmaceutical interventions,” Swartzberg said. “And the biggest one that we can do is to wear the best mask that we can get a hold of and tolerate.”
The masks he’s referring to are labeled N95 and KN95. “I won’t go into any public, indoor setting without one of those two masks on,” Swartzberg said.
But like the scarcity of COVID tests, the gold-standard masks are also in short supply, with shoppers confronted with empty shelves and that dreaded “Sold out” sign.
Swartzberg suggested shopping at Project N95, an online nonprofit that sells masks approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
These masks, he said, can be reused for up to a week, as long as they don’t get noticeably dirty or wet. Healthcare workers wearing masks for extended hours, though, should opt for new coverings daily.
The test and mask shortages come at a critical …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment