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'We want to make sure that everyone has access to tests' | Is the cost of COVID-19 too high for marginalized groups?

The CDC is now recommending the more expensive, medical-grade, disposable masks. And at-home tests are expensive but are flying off shelves.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is growing. 

With the Centers for Disease Control recommending more expensive, medical grade masks and the need for at-home COVID-19 rapid tests growing, it’s costing people more money out of pocket.

And these costs can be a barrier to some.

RELATED: CDC encourages more Americans to consider N95 masks

The Mecklenburg County Health Department saw intense demand for the free, at-home COVID-19 tests. They gave 35,000 out in just a few hours and still are waiting for more to come in to continue the library distribution program.

Finding an at-home test for purchase at a pharmacy is tough, and costs about $25 for two tests. For some people, that’s just too expensive, but with the omicron variant spreading at an unprecedented rate, knowing who is infected is key in getting the virus under control.

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“The bottom line is we want to make sure that everyone has access to tests,” Dr. Cameron Webb with the White House COVID-19 response team told WCNC Charlotte.

But getting tests has been easier for some. In the last month or so, getting a test in the Charlotte area has been an hours-long process, and not everyone can afford to miss work to sit in line. To help with that, on Wednesday, the federal government will start taking orders for free, at-home tests.

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“We have a billion tests that will become available to people that they can order through the website,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said.

Federal officials said there will be a phone line to accommodate those who do not have internet access.

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As COVID-19 becomes more endemic, at-home tests will likely become a staple on pharmacy shelves. But the cost can add up. Private insurance companies will now cover up to eight at-home tests a month.

Webb said they’re working to make the same resources available to all families to ensure the inequity gap doesn’t widen.

“We’re sending free tests to community health centers," Webb said. "We’re sending free tests to organizations for example helping people with homelessness."

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.  

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