Vt. launches rapid test website; 350K nabbed in under 5 hours

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:28 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Some 350,000 rapid antigen tests were snatched up in under five hours Wednesday as Vermont rolled out its new NIH pilot program, ‘Say Yes! Covid Test.’

The start was a little shaky. The state didn’t release the website URL until the system went live at 10 a.m. Some were able to sign up without a problem, including Annie Cooper of Essex Junction. “They’re working hard to make it equitable and comfortable for people to get,” Cooper said.

But others had trouble getting a test. Some got error messages about addressing discrepancies while others were told to come back later due to high demand.

That demand is nothing new. Vermonters have been searching for antigen tests for weeks. “They’ll regularly sell out within the hour of me getting them,” said Ryan Quinn, a pharmacist at Lakeside Pharmacy in Burlington. He says he has to limit customers to two tests each when they come in and that more people contact the pharmacy looking for the tests than anything else. “We may be used to get a couple calls a week to all of a sudden getting 30, 40, 50, 100 calls a day.”

It’s that type of problem Cooper is hoping neighbors can avoid. That’s why she created the Chittenden County Find Rapid COVID-19 Tests Facebook group. It’s for members only and more than 1,000 have joined so far. “What’s happening in the group is people are seeing what locations have them and which don’t. It’s leadership occurring within the community,” Cooper said. She says that includes giving each other tests. “It’s literally -- my heart sings for community. It’s community helping community.”

Now, Cooper and the other 87,000 Vermont households that signed up online Wednesday for those free tests can expect them to arrive at their homes in one to two weeks.

The governor’s press secretary, Jason Maulucci, says the successful pilot program will help determine next steps. “The pilot is going to be a good learning opportunity for both the state and we’ll share this info with the White House and our federal partners to see how the delivery process works,” he said.

Maulucci says the tests should be good as long as they are not left out in the mailbox overnight in sub-zero temperatures.

Details of when 150,000 additional tests may be made available str still to be determined.

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