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Officials Say COVID-19 Test Demand Could Surge Over Omicron: Report


  • Biden administration officials are concerned that demand for testing could strain supply, Politico reported.
  • The concerns come as the Omicron variant could lead to COVID-19 case surges throughout the US.
  • The CDC director said early data suggests Omicron is less severe but that “a lot of people” will still get sick.

Officials in the Biden administration are telling COVID-19 test manufacturers that demand for tests could rapidly surge in the coming months due to the Omicron coronavirus variant, Politico reported Wednesday.

Sources told Politico the Health and Human Services Department determined the test supply in the US could fall short by late January and early February, when they expect demand to reach 3 to 5 million tests per day.

Daily testing levels fluctuate but currently are more than 1.6 million, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University, though many at-home tests are not reported to public health agencies.

One source told Politico that demand projection depends on if Omicron turns out to be significantly more transmissible than Delta.

Scientists are still evaluating the implications of the Omicron variant. Early data indicates it may cause less severe illness than other variants but that “a lot of people” will still get sick, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.

Omicron was first detected in the US on November 15. Walensky said most people in the US with confirmed cases of the variant have experienced mild symptoms, like cough, congestion, and fatigue. However early data also suggests the variant could be highly transmissible and able to evade the protection offered by the vaccines.

The Health and Human Services Department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, but one official told Politico they are “modeling for a range of scenarios to prepare for potential future public health needs.”

“Testing demand involves many behavioral variables, but we are focused on preparedness and continuing to make sure plenty of tests are available along with vaccines, boosters, and other tools to help protect the American people,” the official said.

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