COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health is prioritizing the state's K-12 schools and universities to receive COVID-19 tests as the organization works to combat a nationwide shortage in testing kits.
The state ordered 1.2 million proctored test kits for the month of January. So far, 400,000 of those kits have been received and are being distributed. However, shipment of the remaining 800,000 kits has been delayed as demand has increased during the current COVID-19 surge, which has been largely blamed on the omicron variant.
Leaders with ODH said Wednesday they anticipate those shipments will come in later this month, and as supply becomes available, the rapid testing kits will be first sent out to schools.
"Ongoing access to these tests helps ensure students and teachers can remain in the classroom," ODH representatives said in a press release. "Because schools are experiencing significant new demand for tests as COVID-19 cases to continue to climb, the state is temporarily adjusting its allocation strategy to ensure schools receive an adequate supply."
The move means shipments to other community partners like libraries and local health departments will be paused until inventory stabilizes.
"As tests become available after the urgent needs of K-12 schools and higher education institutions are met, the state will again send tests to libraries and local health departments to distribute," ODH leaders said. "Existing and new requests will be processed in the order in which they are received."
The demand for testing in Ohio is high, with a seven-day average of more than 94,000 tests per day.
Over-the-counter rapid testing kits can still be purchased at pharmacies and grocery stores across the state. Testing is also available at urgent care centers, retail locations, community health centers and pop-up sites.
Since each testing site has its own inventory and protocols, it's suggested you call in advance to make sure tests are available and to figure out you can access them.
"Testing is an important tool, but only one of the tools available to help protect against COVID-19. Ohioans are urged to follow proven prevention measures to help prevent further spread of the virus," ODH representatives said. "The best thing that Ohioans can do is to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccinations, including timely boosters, combined with masking, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying home when sick, can help prevent illness and the need for possible testing."
COVID-19 vaccines are available throughout Ohio.