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Abbott warns of some constraints on Covid-19 home test supply as Delta surge leads to ‘unprecedented demand’

<i>Ted S. Warren/AP</i><br/>A BinaxNOW rapid Covid-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories rests on a table in the room where student-athletes at Pacific Lutheran were tested three times a week
Ted S. Warren/AP
A BinaxNOW rapid Covid-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories rests on a table in the room where student-athletes at Pacific Lutheran were tested three times a week

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Abbott Laboratories says the supply of its at-home Covid-19 tests may be constrained in the coming weeks as demand has grown to “unprecedented” levels during the current surge of coronavirus infections driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“We’re seeing unprecedented demand as case rates rise — and we’ve been scaling up manufacturing since Delta became the dominant strain and new CDC guidance called for a re-prioritization of testing,” Abbott spokesperson John Koval wrote in the email to CNN on Thursday.

“Today, there are tens of millions of BinaxNOW tests in various settings and supply chains. We’re working with our customers to ensure tests get to where they’re most needed and we’re ramping back up, as we did last year,” the statement said. “There will be some supply constraints over the coming weeks as increased capacity comes online.

“Today, BinaxNOW can be found in schools, universities, workplaces, retail shelves across the country, and other settings like nursing homes and assisted living,” said Abbott’s statement.

On Friday, an online search for Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid antigen self-test yielded results to order tests via CVS and Amazon, but the test appears to be out of stock for online orders via Walgreens and Kroger.

Other test developers also have seen increased demand.

“We continue to see increases in demand for COVID-19 PCR testing due to Delta and as the school year begins,” Christopher Allman-Bradshaw, a spokesperson for the company Labcorp, told CNN in an email on Friday morning. “We report numbers on a quarterly basis that we have seen an increase in testing as caseloads rise.”

The company Quest Diagnostics also has noted a rise in demand for diagnostic testing.

“While COVID-19 molecular diagnostic testing demand and positivity rates have climbed in recent weeks due to the nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases, we are performing and reporting the majority of COVID-19 tests within 1 day,” Kim Gorode, a spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics, told CNN in an email on Wednesday. “We have ample capacity, but are adding molecular test instruments to bolster readiness in select laboratories in the Southeast and Southwest, where demand is comparatively high.”

Outside of at-home tests, the company Color — which offers Covid-19 testing kits for testing programs in schools, workplaces, special events or other settings — told CNN on Thursday that it has seen an increase in demand across all the different types of programs the company supports.

“It’s truly been across the board, and I think in particular right now, we’re seeing really the jumps as well from schools starting back up,” said Caroline Savello, chief commercial offer at Color.

Yet in general, Covid-19 testing capacity can vary depending on the type of test used.

“Lab-based capacity is very, very available,” Savello said. “Rapid testing is kind of a different game.”

Some programs had started looking into shifts to rapid testing, and as supplies became tighter, they’re shifting back to lab-based testing, Savello said.

A call for more testing

As the Delta variant continues to circulate, there needs to be more Covid-19 testing, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“I think that there’s a pretty broad disappointment in testing levels in general, and lots of discussion about how to raise testing and to improve testing access — where and when and how you get tested,” Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of NACCHO, told CNN on Wednesday.

“Testing might be up slightly now in areas where transmission is high because of the Delta variant, but certainly it’s nowhere near the testing levels that would allow us to do proper tracing, isolation and quarantine to control the disease spread where we have resurgence,” Freeman said.

There is also a greater need for testing as most children head back to school for the fall.

“We’re getting anecdotal information from the ground that not all schools are on board with implementing broad screening or testing,” Freeman said.

“They see screening and testing as a very time-consuming, resource intensive initiative that requires commitment in terms of follow up resources as well,” she said. “The coming weeks will really tell the story about what we need to do to ramp up screening and testing, to really make it effective in helping to prevent outbreaks in schools, at work settings and wherever else people are returning to normal and congregating.”

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CNN’s Amanda Sealy and Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.

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