US may need to double COVID-19 testing capacity by late January, HHS says

The U.S. may need to conduct 3 million to 5 million daily COVID-19 tests by late January or early February, double the current capacity, Politico reported Dec. 15.

A source told Politico the projection from the Health and Human Services Department’s Testing and Diagnostic Working Group hinges on the assumption that omicron will become the nation's dominant COVID-19 strain in four weeks given that it is three to five times more transmissible than delta.

The U.S. is currently performing more than 1.6 million daily tests, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average number of tests reported from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, 2021, was 1.3 million, up 7.8 percent from the last seven-day period, according to CDC data. The totals may not account for at-home tests, which are often not reported to public authorities. 

While sources close to the diagnostics industry told Politico manufacturers will likely be able to keep pace with increased testing demands, Mayo Clinic Laboratories President William Morice, MD, PhD, said the Biden administration is concerned that supply of all types of diagnostics won’t keep pace. 

"The modeling at the federal level indicated that demand would exceed supply in all the different modalities," Dr. Morice told Politico. "This is different than any conversations that we’ve had with this administration in terms of the urgency."

An HHS official said the department is "modeling for a range of scenarios to prepare for potential future public health needs," but have yet to publicly detail plans to boost testing supplies.


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