By David Fleet
Ortonville- Area pharmacists and medical professions say at times the demand for COVID tests has been off the charts.
And for good reason.
The past holiday travel along with the rapid spread of the new omicron coronavirus variant has pushed the demand for testing up prompting a challenge for many that may be infected.
Now, to make matters worse the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Jan. 4 that preliminary research shows some rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive at detecting the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Locally, tests are available and include in-person and self administered rapid antigen tests, but the demand is soaring.
“I know it’s been a challenge for a lot of people to get the same-day testing,” said Jenny Roelandt, Ortonville Rite Aid pharmacist. “Most testing locations are fully booked for a few days out. And the at-home tests sell out fast, usually within a couple of hours of getting them in stock.”
Roelandt says it’s best to get online and sign up for a test.
“Some days are more busy than others,” she said. “While the self administered tests are faster, they could also produce false-negative results for COVID.”
The FDA, along with researchers from the National Institutes of Health, used samples from patients confirmed to be infected with the omicron variant to study how well antigen tests work. The agency said early results suggest that antigen tests “do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,” meaning it’s possible the tests could miss an infection, known as a “false negative.”
Nena Woodall, manager of M-15 Urgent Care, 250 N. Ortonville Road, Suite C, Groveland Township said, if patients feel they may have been exposed, or possibly had symptoms of the coronavirus, call their office for a test.
“It’s important to test,” said Woodall. “The faster we are tested the faster all can get back to normal. By testing if you have symptoms those that can’t ‘vax’ or opt not to will be less likely to be infected.”
The M-15 Urgent Care provides the PCR or polymerase chain reaction that takes longer to get results, with a turn around time of about two days.
“The rapid COVID home tests are more likely to give a false negative,” she said.
Woodall’s findings regarding testing also follow the FDA report issued last week with the heavily-mutated Omicron variant compared to earlier strains of COVID.
“I would suggest that if you get a negative rapid test then still get a PCR,” she said. “Some employers are now requesting a PCR test over the home test.”
Mike Attar, of Oak Family Pharmacist, 320 North Ortonville Road said as many as 60 people have stopped in for a PCR test in just one day.
“We’re often sold out of the COVID self test,” said Attar.
The PCR test has been taking about two days for results, with tests picked up Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, he said.