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Everyone Who Wants To Test For COVID Is Turning To Online Resellers – CBS Miami

MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – When Patrick Kennedy, a nightlife performer, was recently exposed to COVID-19, he was desperate to find more rapid tests to not only monitor his health but keep track of when he can return to work.

“Can’t find COVID tests because of a shortage in the city,” said Kennedy, who works hours to pay his bills. “I want to get back to work but need to make sure I’m taking the right precautions and not exposing anyone else.”

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After standing in long lines at test centers and visiting pharmacies to buy quick, but futile tests, he came across an Instagram post from someone he went to high school with. The school is offering to sell them directly to people: $20 per test, plus a $5 delivery fee – cheaper than some tests found in pharmacies. Kennedy bought five.

He’s among a growing number of people who have turned to sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Craigslist, LinkedIn and eBay in search of at-home COVID tests as they sell out at drug stores across the country and drugstores. Lines when testing centers can last for hours.

Kennedy’s former classmate, Joey, an electrician who asked not to share his name for privacy reasons, purchased an inventory of 100 test kits from his friend, who works at a care company. health care.

“I have to take a test, so it’s frustrating having to wait in the urgent care facility for three hours, and sometimes, not even getting one,” Joey told CNN. , note that he paid $45 for two pharmacy checks. “It’s just not sustainable.”

After buying them in bulk — 100 tests for $900 (about $9 each) — he started offering them on Facebook and Instagram to people in his local community. He said he sold 25 units one night, and 45 the next day; many of them are strangers and parents who need to check in to get their kids back to school after winter break. I am one of them.

Scarcity of COVID Tests

After a long winter break, my son was getting ready to go back to preschool on Monday morning. A negative COVID test is required and the only result we give is no result. While we were self-isolating in the previous days, panic gripped me: Where would we find another test amid shortages in the New York area to make it to school in time the next day. ? After seeing Joey’s post on a local parenting Facebook group, I was 45 minutes later without ever leaving the house. I was left with many questions: Is this ethical? Is the test real?

Joey then told me, “I don’t want to kill people. “I had access to tests – I didn’t hoard or buy too many of them at a drug store – and it was almost a crime to have people waiting in line for hours in the cold, perhaps increasingly. sicker. I decided to have it delivered straight to my house.”

Facebook told CNN Business it strictly prohibits the sale of test kits on our platforms and has a system in place for regulators and law enforcement to report behavior they consider illegal. law or against our rules. eBay, TikTok, and Craigslist did not respond to requests for comment. It is LinkedIn’s policy to take down any post intended to sell any item, whether or not it is related to the pandemic.

The emergence of COVID testing resale comes as frustrated Americans struggle to get tested and face long lines amid increased demand following travel and holiday gatherings.

Amazon, CVS Health, and Walgreens are limiting the number of COVID home kits customers can buy. Walmart recently raised the price of some of its rapid COVID tests from $14 to $20 for two.

Experts say that it is not illegal to resell kits in small quantities and without large premiums – nor is buying these products – but is risky for both the buyer and seller.

“We have received reports that unauthorized sellers are attempting to profit from the pandemic by selling COVID-19 tests online,” Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine wrote in a tweet on Thursday. Three. “Be careful and only buy tests through authorized retailers to ensure the integrity of your test.”

The Federal Trade Association recently published guidance on how to avoid buying fake COVID tests online, such as checking out buyers, paying by credit card to dispute charges if scammed, and just purchase kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Biden administration recently announced it would distribute 500 million free home tests, but it’s unclear when a website will launch for Americans to request these tests and how soon they will be shipped. long. A senior government official told CNN last week that they are “working on all the details. And we’ll have those in the coming weeks. ”

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The administration also said reimbursement for at-home testing will begin next week through insurers.

An opportunity for another secondhand market about the pandemic

Meanwhile, Joey is doing very fast business. But his efforts have been met with mixed reactions; some on Facebook criticized the way he made a profit by reselling tests, others defended him: “This kid doesn’t set prices and he is taking the opportunity to do it. everything is easier for everyone. He was even willing to deliver – geez! ”

In the end, Joey’s post was taken down by the group’s moderators. He was not told why.

Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, says the trend has also surfaced on his local Facebook parenting group in Connecticut.

“The black market that skews the ability to provide testing to those who can pay outright reflects the failure of government at the national and state level to provide adequate testing,” he said. “Am I surprised that a black market has begun to bloom? At least not. There are many places that say you can’t come here unless you’ve tested negative, but there’s no test at all. Most people on the black market call it an opportunity.”

Aside from equity issues, buying COVID-19 tests from strangers can be deceptive – people don’t know who they are or what they actually offer.

“It is unethical to cut prices in the face of panic and in the face of shortages, but it will continue,” Caplan said. “For the people who buy them, what will they do? They couldn’t find the tests any other way. I can’t blame someone for wanting to protect their child, but you have to remember that the person who sold you something on the black market may be selling you something that doesn’t work.”

This is not the first time a secondary market has emerged during a pandemic. In the spring of 2020, a shortage of protective gear sparked the secondary market. “We used some [at the NYU hospital], but sometimes it will tear, rip, or fall short of manufacturing standards,” says Caplan. “Sometimes people on the black market take money and never deliver it.”

It’s also not the first time these issues of scarcity and equity have played out during a pandemic. Early last year, concierge health care provider One Medical was investigated for allowing friends and family members of its executives and wealthy clients to bypass the line. for vaccination.

While reselling COVID-19 tests is not illegal, Jessica Rich, a former FTC official who works on consumer protection issues, said if there was some sort of collusion going on, between entities or individuals or some deceptive statement is made in connection with a sale, perhaps some state law, the FTC Act – prohibiting inappropriate or deceptive practices – or Unfair, deceptive or abusive practices and practices (UDAAP) laws may apply.

“If someone is selling a small amount, say a few dozen, a federal agency is not going to sue someone doing this on that scale, especially if they are public about the price,” says Rich. .

However, pandemic profiteering can end badly for sellers. In the early days of the pandemic, Matt and Noah Colvin were famous for hoarding and selling hand sanitizer. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have withdrawn their listings and warned others that they may lose their accounts. According to the New York Times, they have sold out more than 17,000 bottles and have nowhere to sell. (One of the brothers later expressed regret and donated supplies to charity.)

One Craigslist seller, who asked not to be named, said they started reselling the tests after waiting in line for hours, missing work and paying premiums for PCR results with no insurance, in the hope of earning some of his money back. “I actually feel a bit abusive about the price hike, but COVID has ruined my job and I need to pay rent,” the listing said. “Had to call more than 50 pharmacies down the drive from DC to find these.” Sellers told CNN Business that they would personally “pay double for no handling and quick results if it’s available.”

Some, like Joey, have been kicked out of Facebook groups. Russell Schwartz and his wife, Katherine Quirk-Schwartz, a nurse, run a Facebook page in South Florida that connects people with COVID-19 related resources. In recent weeks, they’ve shifted some of the group’s focus from helping people find vaccines to helping members find home testing kits. Schwartz said he kicked people out of the group for trying to sell the tests.

“Our biggest fear is the praying individuals on our team because of the size, population, and demographics of older users,” says Quirk-Schwartz.

MORE NEWS: Walmart temporarily closes stores in Miami to clear COVID

(© 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

https://miami.cbslocal.com/2022/01/09/covid-test-resellers-online/ Everyone Who Wants To Test For COVID Is Turning To Online Resellers – CBS Miami

Huynh Nguyen

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