Heavy demand for free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests on Wednesday temporarily crashed the website for ordering the kits, with more than 150,000 hits to the Vermont Department of Health-hosted site in less than an hour after it opened.
By day's end, however, 350,000 tests had been ordered through the site, and Vermonters unable to secure a kit were advised to try again "in the coming days."
"The site briefly crashed early on as people came to us to find the SayYes link. I think we had more than 150,000 hits in the opening 45 min," said Health Department spokesman Ben Truman. Truman said the site was back up and working shortly after the crash, although repeated attempts to access the page throughout the day by Vermont News & Media resulted in a screen message saying: "We are experiencing exceptionally heavy demand, please try in the next hour."
At around 3 p.m., the message changed to instruct visitors that the test kits were all allocated.
"Thank you for your interest in the 'Say Yes! COVID Test' program. We have had an overwhelming response to the initiative and have already exhausted the initial home delivery supply. We will have additional kits available in the coming days. Please check back later to place an order," the page instructed.
The Say Yes Covid Test website was created by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Vermont Health Department hosted the site in a pilot program Gov. Phil Scott touted at Tuesday's news conference. He predicted strong interest in the site, given the challenges Vermonters have faced in accessing the rapid tests.
"We expect them to go quickly,” Scott said on Tuesday.
The website launched at 10 a.m. Wednesday, accessible through healthvermont.gov. Following the crash, Truman said, the site was restored, and people were able to order tests.
Jason Maulucci, the governor's press secretary, said that by 1 p.m., over 200,000 tests had "been acquired and we anticipate the remainder to go quickly." He updated at 2:45 p.m., saying all 350,000 tests available through the first phase of today’s Say Yes rapid test pilot program have been ordered.
In a release, Scott said, “I want to thank our public and private partners for their work on this initiative. While we knew the limited supply would go quickly, this effort will help inform future decisions, as we continue to work to make testing as accessible as possible for all Vermonters.”
Maulucci acknowledged the problems Vermonters are having in finding rapid at-home COVID tests, either through public distribution sites or from local pharmacies.
"Like every state, we are challenged by supply at the national level, as cities, states and countries compete for the same resources," he said. "Vermont has done more to make testing accessible than any other state, but we know supply does not match the demand. We will continue to acquire as many rapid tests as we can and get them out to Vermonters."
Also on Wednesday, the Health Department updated its COVID-19 testing numbers — after a glitch that previously resulted in under-reporting the daily numbers posted on the public website. According to the new figures, a record 2,975 positive cases were reported on Friday; 2,357 on Saturday; 1,061 on Sunday; 939 on Monday; and 813 on Tuesday.