Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

U.S. COVID-19 tests again in short supply as infections soar, schools reopen

Stock MarketsAug 27, 2021 02:31PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wait in line for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a back-to-school clinic in South Gate, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo 2/3

By Carl O'Donnell

(Reuters) - U.S. companies are scrambling to boost production of coronavirus tests increasingly in short supply as COVID-19 cases soar and schools and employers revive surveillance programs that will require tens of millions of tests, according to industry executives and state health officials.

    Test manufacturers including Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), Becton Dickinson (NYSE:BDX) and Co, and Quidel (NASDAQ:QDEL) Corp in recent months scaled back production of rapid COVID-19 tests, which can produce results on-site in minutes, as well as test kits that are sent to laboratories for analysis. The move followed a nearly 90% decline in testing and a similarly large drop in COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Abbott in June shut down two production lines in Maine and closed a manufacturing plant in Illinois. Around the same time, Quidel shifted production away from COVID-19 tests. Becton Dickinson had also scaled back production in recent months.

    Now, with the Delta variant pushing U.S. COVID-19 cases well above 100,000 per day, test makers are working to quickly reverse course, industry executives and state officials told Reuters.

"We’re hiring people and turning on parts of our manufacturing network that were idled or slowed when guidance changed and demand plunged," Abbott said in a statement.

However, testmakers including Abbott and Becton Dickinson cautioned that there may be supply constraints in the near term.

    “With the rise of cases from the Delta variant... there is currently some tightness in supply as manufacturers ramp back up," said Troy Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for Becton Dickinson, adding that the company expects inventory levels "will normalize over the next couple of weeks."

    Demand for COVID-19 tests has been largely driven by healthcare providers, employers and schools, he added.

Supplies could tighten even further as more state governments and private employers demand staff either get vaccinated or agree to regular testing. Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) are among major employers requiring staff to be regularly tested.

    Testing in schools is a top priority for federal and state officials as a minority of the roughly 70 million school-age U.S. children have been vaccinated. Those under 12 are not yet eligible for the shots.

    Demand for diagnostic tests has surged nearly six-fold in the past two months, from around 250,000 per day in early July to nearly 1.5 million in mid-August, according to U.S. federal data. The data only tracks diagnostic tests that are run in laboratories.   

    That demand is only expected to grow.

More than half a dozen states, including California, Delaware, and South Carolina, have set up comprehensive surveillance testing programs for their public K-12 schools, while Pennsylvania and Arkansas are among at least a dozen other states developing similar plans. Even in states without such plans, many local school districts are rolling out surveillance programs.

    Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, expects to need around 40,000 Abbott rapid tests per month to monitor students for COVID-19, said Lynly Leeper, the district’s chief financial and operational officer.

Her school district had been planning to shut down its testing program until the Delta variant sent cases soaring in the state in recent weeks.


Delaware, which was among the first to roll out a comprehensive surveillance testing program in July, has already begun to see some test shortages, said Dr. Rick Pescatore, an associate medical director in the state’s public health agency.

The surge in test demand has sounded alarms among federal officials, who are “concerned that people are going to start shutting down our supply chain,” limiting the flexibility to respond to a spike in cases, said Quidel Chief Executive Douglas Bryant told Reuters.

The recent increase in surveillance testing "really stresses the supply chain,” said Dana Lerman, medical director at The COVID Consultants, a physicians group that provides COVID-19 testing and advisory services. Her organization has seen demand for rapid tests increase 200% since June.

Even if testmakers are able to keep up with rising demand from U.S. schools, states will still face challenges covering the expense of widespread testing, which experts say will cost the average school district at least $1 million each year.

   Ysleta in El Paso said it expects it will cost around $3 million to safely test its students this school year, and is relying on Texas to provide it with funds.

   The Biden administration granted $10 billion to help states developing COVID-19 testing programs. Experts said the sum is far short of what states will need to cover testing for the full school year.

   “More federal funding will be necessary," said Dr. Antonia Sepulveda, president of the Association of Molecular Pathology that represents diagnostic testing laboratories, "for institutions to continue comprehensive testing programs."

U.S. COVID-19 tests again in short supply as infections soar, schools reopen

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email