Limited supplies of COVID-19 testing kits create uncertain risks for holiday gatherings this year in Montgomery County and around the nation.
Three hospitals in Montgomery County as of Wednesday were placed on red alert, meaning they had no electrocardiogram monitored beds available, which includes all inpatient critical areas and telemetry beds, according to county hospital alert tracking system CHATS. An additional three hospitals were placed on yellow alert, which means they requested to not receive anymore patients in need of urgent care.
As of Tuesday, 205 people in the county were hospitalized due to coronavirus, according to Montgomery County Health and Human Services Public Health Emergency Preparedness Manager Sean O’Donnell.
Montgomery County provides free COVID-19 testing at multiple locations, but actually receiving a test is becoming more difficult, according to residents. The county noted that testing is limited and appointment-only testing sites are booked for the foreseeable future.
Private providers such as Walgreens and CVS are also booked up for appointments, and at-home testing kits continue to prove costly and hard to come by. At-home testing kits on average cost $25 from private providers, an expense that adds up with multiple exposures.
As people plan to attend holiday gatherings, health experts recommend testing hours before the event. Without kits available, risk awareness proves to be increasingly difficult.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned against large holiday gatherings, particularly if the vaccination status of attendants is unknown.
“Those are the kinds of functions in the context of Omicron that you do not want to go to.”
In a statement, Gov. Larry Hogan said, “As I have been warning for the past few weeks, we are entering another pivotal moment in the fight against COVID-19.”
“I can’t stress this enough—getting vaccinated and getting your booster is your strongest possible defense against this virus and its variants.”