Layoffs hit labs as COVID-19 testing dwindles

As at-home COVID-19 tests rise in popularity, U.S. laboratories are slimming their workforce and decreasing their capacity for processing PCR tests, The Wall Street Journal reported July 24. 

U.S. labs can process about 62 million COVID-19 tests a month, which is half of their capacity levels reported in March, according to consulting firm Health Catalysts Group cited in the Journal report. 

Because of diminishing government funding and less demand, COVID-19 test lab SummerBio laid off 100 workers, and CueHealth, which makes at-home molecular tests, laid off 170 people, about 10 percent of its workforce, according to the Journal

SummerBio, a company that provides PCR testing for COVID-19, said it's switching to "standby-mode" because of a "dramatic reduction" in demand for lab-based testing, according to a July 25 press release. 

Though the rise in at-home tests makes federal case counts more difficult to manage, labs are simply working with what they can. 

"It's been a trade-off, but it's a trade-off that we've been accepting," Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, a biomedical engineering professor at Emory University who helped federal officials review COVID-19 tests, told the Journal

While rapid at-home tests have become more prevalent, manufacturers of those tests, such as IHealth Labs and QuidelOrtho, are also reducing their staff and decreasing production levels. 

Health Catalysts Group estimates that production capability for rapid tests was 462 million in March, which has since fallen to 320 million.


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