JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As people return from Christmas gatherings across the nation, concerns about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are growing. If you want to be sure you aren’t bringing the virus back home, you might have a hard time finding instant results.

Pharmacies in Johnson City are seeing shortages of the COVID-19 rapid antigen test.

Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said the looming Omicron threat could drive up demand.

“We do expect a testing demand that’s going to be hard to meet,” Swift said. “There’s going to be so many cases that you probably are going to see empty shelves at the drug store of those over the counter rapid tests.”

In Johnson City, however, that high demand is already being seen, and it is leading to short supply at pharmacies.

On Monday evening, News Channel 11 went to 10 pharmacies across Johnson City, including Kroger and multiple CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies. We were only able to find the Flowflex rapid test at West Towne Pharmacy.

Dr. Jacob Cox at Mooney’s Pharmacy said more people have called about his rapid test supply during the holidays, but he doesn’t have the supply to meet their needs.

“They’re just going so fast. I know that in the past two weeks I probably sold out of two different shipments that I’ve got in,” Cox said.

Ballad Health COVID-19 testing
Ballad Health says it is ramping up test availability. Testing appointments may be set up by calling 1-833-8-BALLAD or visiting Ballad’s website.

He said people are drawn to the rapid test because of its convenience. They can provide results in as little as 15 minutes.

As people needing the rapid test struggle to find them, Cox said pharmacies are also unable to get new shipments of tests delivered.

Cox said he ordered a new shipment daily, hoping that it would be accepted by one of the rapid antigen test manufacturers, but he has not received a shipment in a month.

“There’s only so many tests being made so it’s not like there’s a specific allocation to any other pharmacy,” Cox said.

He said the manufacturer’s price of the rapid tests has also gone up during this period of high demand, forcing him to also increase his price.

Swift said getting testing is important to stopping the spread of the Omicron variant. She said it would be a good idea to wait if you want a test to make sure you did not get infected from a holiday gathering.

“Really about five days after that gathering would be the ideal time to test just to make sure that you’re not infectious,” Swift said.

If you cannot find a rapid test at a local pharmacy, you do have some options to still get one.

  • Walgreens offers drive-thru rapid testing at select locations in Southwest Virginia, including the Lee Highway location in Bristol, Jackson Street location in Gate City, and Main Street location Marion.
  • Washington County, Tenn. Department of Health has rapid tests available for pick-up from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Some CVS Pharmacies do offer rapid testing, but the nearest one is in Weaverville, North Carolina.

Walgreens, CVS and several health care and urgent care facilities in Tri-Cities do offer the usual PCR lab test if you do need a COVID-19 test. These tests typically take one to two days for results to come back.