From shoppers hoarding products to stores cutting hours and limiting customer capacity, the retail horrors of 2020 might seem like they’re a relic of the past. But as the the pandemic has continued into 2022, so, too, have the changes retailers have had to make. With the Omicron variant causing infections to surge to new heights, companies like CVS and Walgreens have placed purchasing limits on certain essential products, while Walmart and Apple have had to temporarily close entire stores. Now, both Walmart and Kroger have made another new change surrounding COVID essentials. Read on to find out what the two retailers just announced.
Depending on where you shop, you might be paying more for at-home COVID tests soon. Both Walmart and Kroger confirmed on Jan. 5 that they had just raised the prices of certain at-home tests, NBC News reported. The BinaxNOW COVID test is now listed on Walmart’s website for $19.88, when it was just $14 last month. And Kroger is now selling the same test for $23.99, according to its website.
Both retailers were selling the BinaxNOW tests for a reduced cost thanks to a deal with the White House. In Sept. 2021, Walmart and Kroger agreed to sell at-home rapid antigen tests at a lower price point for three months amid a surge in COVID infections due to the Delta variant. The three retailers were selling the tests online and in stores for up to 35 percent less than retail price, according to the Biden administration.
But the three-month agreement ended in December. Representatives for both Walmart and Kroger said they were raising prices as they had fulfilled their commitment to sell tests at a lower cost for an allotted amount of time, Insider reported. The retailers are now selling the test kits at retail price again.
During a news briefing on Jan. 5, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, declined to comment on whether or not the administration was looking into or had made any effort to extend the price agreement with retailers.
“I’m not going to get into details of our private conversations with these providers,” she said at a press briefing, per The Wall Street Journal. “Our focus is, of course, ensuring that we are increasing access and access to free tests to people across the country.”
Psaki did note a day earlier that the White House is currently finalizing details to mail at-home test kits to people in the U.S. for free. The administration has purchased 500 million kits to send out, starting in January. “The first delivery for manufacturers will start later this month. That’s our expectation,” she said during a Jan. 4 press briefing. “When we have those deliveries in hand, we will put the website up, make it available so that people can order tests at that point in time.”
Walmart still has the cheapest price point for BinaxNOW COVID tests compared to most major retailers. Like Kroger, CVS and Walgreens are both selling this rapid test for $23.99—nearly $5 more than Walmart’s price. A Walmart spokeswoman also told NBC News in an email that unlike other retailers, the company had continued selling COVID tests for $14 throughout the holidays, despite the White House agreement having already expired.
But a difference in prices may not matter, because it is still very difficult for consumers to get their hands on at-home tests from any retailer. Walmart, CVS, Kroger, and Walgreens all currently list the BinaxNOW test as out of stock or unavailable for purchase online. People have been forced to buy whatever they can find—even if it ends up being higher in price.
“We have seen significant demand for at home COVID-19 testing kits and are working closely with our suppliers to meet this demand and get the needed product to our customers,” the Walmart spokeswoman said, adding that inventory for these tests has remained stronger in Walmart stores than it has online.