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Use of at-home Covid tests increased during omicron wave, CDC says

The wave of omicron variants in the United States has triggered a surge in the use of at-home Covid-19 tests, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday.

The researchers compared the use of home tests among people reporting Covid-like symptoms during the delta wave, occurring from August to December, and during the omicron wave, which started in mid-December but has declined over the past month.

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They found that test uptake more than tripled when the omicron variant spread rapidly, rising from an average of 5.7% to more than 20% in people with symptoms.

While test use increased, the tests weren’t used consistently across the US population — they varied by race, age, income, or education.

For example, the researchers found that white people were about twice as likely to report using home testing as those who identified as black.

Additionally, adults in their 30s were more likely to report using home testing than teenagers and those in their 20s and those aged 75 and older.

Use of home testing also increased with higher levels of household income and education – people earning more than $150,000 a year and those with postgraduate degrees were most likely to report the use of home tests.

The CDC said the findings underscore the need for reliable, inexpensive testing in underserved communities that may have limited access.

Rapid test kits have become more widely available in the United States in recent months as manufacturers scramble to meet growing demand.

The federal government began handing out free home tests in January and made another tranche available this month.

However, due to a lack of congressional funding, the White House has said in recent weeks that it will no longer be able to purchase tests to provide to Americans who do not have health insurance.

The report comes as US health officials say they are closely monitoring a subvariant of omicron, known as BA.2, to see if it causes an increase in cases in the United States as in all over Europe and other parts of the world.

The subvariant now accounts for nearly 35% of new cases in the country, according to CDC estimates.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a Wednesday briefing that health officials were seeing an uptick in cases in parts of the Northeast, although there is no indication yet that they are leading to a increase in serious illnesses or hospital stays.

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