What We’re Reading: Rationing of COVID-19 Test Kits; 2021’s Death Toll; Hospitalizations Surge Again

COVID-19 at-home test kits are in short supply; 2021 is on track to surpass 2020's death toll; hospitals report patient surges.

COVID-19 Test Rationing

The unprecedented demand for at-home COVID-19 test kits ahead of the 2021 holiday season has led major pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS to ration individual purchases, USA Today reports. At Walgreens, customers are limited to purchasing 4 home test kits, while at CVS, that limit is set at 6. Some stores may say they’re out of stock online while in-person stock is available in some communities. Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced his administration will mail 500 million at-home test kits for free in January.

Tracking 2021's Death Toll

According to the Associated Press, health officials say 2021 is on track to be even more deadly than 2020 in the United States. It will still be weeks before accurate death counts from November and December are processed, but publicly available information indicates this year’s death toll is likely to surpass that of 2020 by at least 15,000. Last year was the deadliest in the nation’s history, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, and updated data show that figures are worse than what the CDC previously reported. Life expectancy in 2020 also fell by 1.8 years compared with 2019.

Hospitals Struggle With Another COVID-19 Patient Surge

Hospitals around the country are struggling with the latest increase in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant and the still-present Delta variant, NBC News reports. An ongoing shortage of personnel is also complicating matters, and The New York Times reports that 2 of the 3 monoclonal antibodies doctors have depended on to treat COVID-19 patients do not seem as effective against the Omicron variant. The remaining seemingly effective treatment is now in short supply. However, according to The Washington Post, new data indicate early use of convalescent plasma could help prevent infections with the Omicron variant from becoming severe.