How to find at-home COVID-19 tests: Websites track availability as demand surges

Websites that normally track the stock of the latest must-have items, such as the coveted PS5, popular toys and other collectibles, are now keeping track of this year’s hottest item: an at-home COVID-19 test. 

Sites such as HotStock, Zoolert and NowInStock are now keeping track of CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Amazon’s inventory of at-home COVID-19 tests after a recent surge in demand. 

The sites operate as a one-stop-shop for consumers to keep track of retailers’ inventory on popular products. For instance, if a shopper is waiting for a chance to snag a PS5 gaming console, they can check one website instead of calling stores to confirm they have the item in stock. 

People can even sign up for alerts to notify them when and if an item is available in stores. 

As cases increase across the United States, at-home test kits are in short supply, leaving consumers searching for a needle in a haystack, even forcing some retailers to put a cap on how many consumers can buy at one time. 

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FILE - In this photo illustration, a COVID-19 antigen home test kit shows a negative result.

CVS is only allowing customers seeking Abbott BinaxNOW, Acon FlowFlex, Quidel Quickvue, Ellume, and Pixel by LabCorp to buy no more than six test kits. 

Stores have seen a surge in demand for at-home tests during the recent spike in cases caused by the highly-infectious omicron variant. It was first detected by scientists in South Africa last month and has quickly become the dominant strain in several countries, including the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

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"Due to a recent surge in demand, and to retain community-based access to tests in our stores, there may be temporary out-of-stocks for these products on," a company spokesperson said. 

Other retailers, like Walmart and Amazon, have placed similar caps on their test kits. For months, Walmart had a limit of 12 purchases of at-home tests. But they recently dropped the cap to eight per online order, a Walmart spokesperson said. 

The retailer claims to have a strong inventory of tests available in its stores, but its online inventory is more limited. The spokesperson said Walmart has not instituted a national limit on in-store purchases, but individual stores are able to set their own limits based on local inventory. 

Amazon restricted customers to 10 of its own at-home testing kits all the way back in September of last year, prior to the omicron variant. Customers who choose to buy from third-party sellers on the Amazon website are not subject to the company’s 10-test kit limit. 

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Even so, an Amazon spokesperson said each seller has the right to set purchase limits on their products. 

"At this time, similar to other retailers, we are experiencing inventory shortages on some COVID-19 tests due to increased demand," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. "Other retailers have instituted limits on the number of at-home COVID tests customers can buy." 

Amazon’s spokesperson said the company is "working hard to secure additional COVID-19 test inventory available from our selling partners." 

Separately, delivery company DoorDash has been partnering with Vault Health and Everlywell through DoorMart, which is part of DoorDash, since March to deliver COVID-19 PCR test kits to consumers. 

"The Vault Health COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit is a supervised saliva collection PCR test for COVID-19 that is performed under the supervision of Vault staff through an audio-video visit to confirm identity, ensure proper saliva sample collection and quantity for the most accurate results, and answer any outstanding COVID-19 questions," according to the company. 

Meanwhile, the White House said private health insurers will be required to pay for up to eight COVID-19 tests per person per month starting Jan. 15, while Americans can expect to be able to order free tests purchased by the government later this month. 

"Under President Biden’s leadership, we are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost," the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release Monday. 

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The White House also updated the timeline on when Americans can expect to order one of the 500 million tests President Biden vowed the government would purchase, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying Monday that details about a website are coming later this week. 

Psaki noted that contracts for all "500 million tests" Biden promised the federal government would purchase "should be awarded over the next two weeks," while Americans can expect to be "able to order these tests online later this month." 

Kelly Hayes and FOX Business contributed to this report.