This Christmas, take-home COVID-19 tests are apparently on many last-minute shopping lists.
Instead of traditional stocking stuffers, New Yorkers rushed Thursday to get their hands on free at-home coronavirus tests as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads ahead of the pandemic-dampened holiday, prompting numerous sites to run out of the coveted kits within hours.
At a city-run handout location at 65th Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, more than 200 people wrapped around the block were left empty handed when the site ran out of the 2,000 rapid testing tools at about 10:40 a.m.
Many of those fortunate enough to get their hands on the do-it-yourself instruments wanted to ensure they weren’t infected ahead of traveling to see loved ones.
Asif Memon, a Park Slope resident, came with his wife and two young children to get his hands on the kits at the Brooklyn location ahead of a family trip to North Carolina.
“We are traveling for a few days to see the grandparents in North Carolina so we want to make sure we are negative,” Mermon, 43, told The Post. “I want to be on the safe side.”
His wife Fauzia Mermon said she was notified her vaccinated daughter came into close contact with a student who tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the family to delay their plans.
“We were supposed to leave today. We pushed it back to Sunday to make sure everybody is safe“ explained Mermon, 38. “We will take the tests on Sunday. I am hoping the results are negative. If there is a positive, we will cancel the trip. We will be disappointed because the grandparents are looking forward to seeing the kids but safety is first.”
She added, “Both my parents are high risk so we won’t take that chance.”
At Masaryk Towers in Lower Manhattan, where the kits began being dolled out at 8 a.m., about 40 people were waiting for the Abott antigen tests when they ran out of the 2,000-kit supply at 11 a.m., before more supply came about one hour later.
Some seeking kits were irked by the site running out of them.
“I can’t stand here for 90 minutes,” fumed one woman passing by. “What a f–king mess.”
“I can’t be intimate with my lady friend without a test, so I need to wait,” said Andrew Grell, 62. “I understand there’s a limited supply of tests, it’s frustrating, I’d like to know my results. I got a COVID test Sunday, and they were supposed to mail me a letter with my results, but I never got it. They’re overwhelmed.”
“This was predictable, people are going home for the holidays,” Lauren Avallone, 29, a SoHo resident, said of the long lines. “The city failed us.”
Ivan Vera, who lives on the Lower East Side, was driven to the mobile at-home test kits site by frustration about past experiences getting tested the traditional way.
“I want a test just in case out of precaution. Everywhere I look for a test. Brooklyn, Urgent Cares, the lines are too long so I leave. I’m a little annoyed that I need to wait another two hours for a take-home test,” said Vera, 23. “I’m spending Christmas with my family so it’s important to get tested so I don’t spread the virus.”
Miriam K., a 21-year-old student, said she was considering abandoning the attempt to get the kit in lower Manhattan amid frigid temperatures.
“I think I might step off the line. My sister has COVID and I’ve been delivering food to her doorstep and I just wanna be safe,” she said. “All the lines to get a rapid tests are 3-4 hours, it’s ridiculous we need to wait that long. Now it’s freezing outside and a lot of older people are waiting in line.”
For his part, Greg Atkins, 53, stormed off the queue, saying he wished he could receive the kits via mail rather than waiting out in the cold for them,
“They need to mail the kits to people’s houses, like they do with other junk mail. I’m leaving,” he told The Post. “I’m not waiting for two hours to get a take home test, I’ll get Covid waiting in line.”
In Brooklyn, IT manager Ayman Zein lamented the disorganization of the site and that only one item per person was allotted.
“I would like to get one for my wife and two kids, but it’s only one per person,” said Zein, 37. “I wouldn’t take more than one. It’s selfish. “I respect what they are doing here but it should be more organized.”
Gina Pirozzi, 64, went to get her test kit out of concern for her elderly mother.
“I have a 98 year-old mother and I want to test her. My mom is bedridden. She seems to be having the sniffles and I want to make sure. I travel on the express bus. I need to be extra cautious, plain and simple.”
She told The Post she planned to enforce precautionary measures for those attending the Christmas Eve festivities she’s hosting.
“We are supposed to be having 13 people tomorrow night,” Pirozzi said. “We told them they have to be tested.”
The rush to get the test kits comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced five at-home test distribution sites, in a move aimed at reducing the recently long lines at run testing locations during the coronavirus surge driven by the Omicron variant.
“This is really important because we want to make sure, you know, of course for those who can go to one of the testing sites, get the PCR test. That’s great. But we want to make sure more and more of the at-home tests are available as an alternative,” he explained during a virtual press briefing. “We want to make sure testing goes well. There will be some lines. There’s no doubt about it, particularly at the private sites. But our job is to minimize the lines at the city-run sites and at our partner sites.”
The announcement came after the city saw positive rates at below 3 percent on a seven-day average at the beginning of December, and in three weeks rose to 11.38 percent as of Tuesday, according to city data. On Wednesday, New York State hit a record high of 28,924 cases.
On Thursday in The Bronx, outside the Morrison Avenue–Soundview station, the BinaxNOW Self Test 2T tests ran out just before 12 p.m.
Nick Johnson told The Post before joining the queue that he searched four CVS pharmacies for the test kits but they sold out.
“You just can’t find the kits anywhere,” Johnson, 36, said. “I would have liked more kits for my wife and children but I’ll keep trying all day to find more.”
Father Hector Robles, 46, was grateful for the testing kit he collected but worried how he would ration it should COVID spread through his family.
“Something’s better than nothing,” Robles said. “But I have a family of four at home, including 10- and 8-year-old boys and my wife, and only one kit.”
Shortly after 12 p.m, workers told people awaiting test kits they had run out of them and weren’t sure when they would be restocked.
Ramon Pema, 51, wanted a test before spending Christmas with his elderly mother, but gave up his spot in line after waiting 30 minutes.
“I can’t wait because we have no idea if or when they’ll have any tests,” Pema said, adding that he hoped his sister had more luck getting the testing equipment at a nearby pharmacy.