Last Chances for COVID Tests Few and Far Between

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The window to acquire rapid COVID tests ahead of New Year’s Eve is just about shut.

Residents who weren’t able to get a rapid COVID test from the Youngstown City Health District during its giveaway at Covelli Centre Wednesday can acquire up to four this morning at a drive-thru at Wick Park – if they received a business card voucher from the giveaway yesterday.

Only the individuals who received a small business card at the Covelli Centre Wednesday morning are eligible for the tests being distributed from 9 a.m. to noon at 260 Park Ave., according to the health district. No exceptions will be made.

Incoming traffic must enter on Park Avenue via Fifth Avenue and will exit onto Elm Street. The Youngstown City Health District does not have any testing kits available at its office at 9 W. Front St.

During the early morning giveaway Wednesday, the health district distributed 4,000 BinaxNow COVID-19 Antigen Self Tests to the first 1,000 vehicles to arrive. Hours before the 8 a.m. start time, vehicles had backed up along Market Street to Southern Boulevard, forcing health workers to begin at 7:15 a.m. 

The final tests were handed out just before 10 a.m.

Starting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 30, Poland Township trustees will distribute about 1,000 tests purchased by the township with about $23,000 in American Rescue Plan funds, says Paul Canter, fiscal officer.

The drive-thru distribution will take place at the township administration building at 3339 Dobbins Road and is restricted to Poland Township residents, says Trustee Eric Ungaro. Individuals will need to provide proof of residency to receive an allotment of up to three tests.

Ungaro says the township will have extra police officers on hand to help keep traffic moving, though he doesn’t expect the kind of traffic experienced Wednesday in downtown Youngstown.

“Our pool is a lot smaller than what Covelli [Centre] had going on,” he says. “We’re just going to keep going until we’re done.”

Aside from those free distributions, national pharmacy chains may have some in stock. The Business Journal reported Tuesday that a sign posted to the front door of the Walgreens at 2560 Belmont Ave. stated the store expected a shipment by Dec. 30, although it’s unclear how many would be coming in.

Residents unable to acquire a test by this weekend will likely have to wait until next week. Poland Township has another distribution planned for Jan. 3.

Also starting Monday, The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County is partnering with Mahoning County Public Health to distribute 4,000 tests, says Maggie Henderson, strategic communications officer.

Distribution will be limited to branches outside the city of Youngstown, including the Austintown, Boardman, Campbell, Canfield, Poland, Sebring, Springfield, Struthers and Tri-Lakes branches. Residents must call 330 744 8636 starting Monday to reserve up to four free tests. No library card is needed. The tests will be distributed by curbside pick up.

The Main, Brownlee Woods, East, Michael Kusalaba and Newport branches will not participate in the distribution, Henderson says. However, the library is anticipating its own shipment of tests from the state next week, which will be available at all of its branches.

The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library ordered 3,000 tests last week, but only 650 were delivered, says Executive Director James Wilkins. The library has more on order, but no word on when they will come in or how many, he says.

“They were gone in four hours,” Wilkins says of last week’s order. “We just can’t keep them in.”

The Trumbull County Combined Health District received a partial order of 400 tests this week, which are already gone, Health Commissioner Frank Migliozzi confirmed in an email. He expects the department won’t receive more until next week.

The Columbiana County General health District is awaiting word on when it will receive its next shipment, said Laura Fauss, public information officer. The district’s last order of 1,000 tests was exhausted by Dec. 23.

Libraries and health districts typically receive their tests through the Ohio Department of Health. Amid the current surge of COVID cases and the winter holidays, ODH determined it would not hold back any testing resources during December, according to a department spokesperson.

While the department didn’t offer data specific to the Mahoning Valley, ODH has distributed 1.4 million free rapid testing kits this month, and about 5.2 million total this year. It has a “very small reserve of tests” to meet any immediate emergency needs, according to the spokesperson.

“Another 400,000 proctored testing kits have been ordered for January so that distribution can resume, and additional non-proctored testing kits are being procured as quickly as possible based on availability,” according to the spokesperson. The ODH purchases and distributes BinaxNow rapid COVID tests.

Abbott, the Illinois-based manufacturer of the BinaxNow test, has been seeing “unprecedented demand” for its tests and “we’re sending them out as fast as we can make them,” said John Koval, director of public affairs, rapid diagnostics, in an email. Abbott is operating its two manufacturing plants, in Maine and Illinois, daily to keep up with demand and has increased its workforce to thousands between the two plants, Koval said.

The company is on track to make 70 million BinaxNow tests in January, which is up from some 50 million produced in December, and can scale “significantly further in the months ahead” to meet continued demand,  Koval said.

“We completely self-invested in both of these plants, taking no government money or investments, and we built those plants in a matter of weeks that would normally take months or years,” he said. “We’ve always said testing must work together with vaccines—and that frequent testing is what will keep workplaces open, get people traveling, keep our kids in school, and make sure the economy doesn’t take unnecessary hits.”

Pictured: Abbott manufacturing plants produced some 50 million BinaxNow tests in December and are on track to make another 70 million in January. (Image: Abbott)

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.