- HHS announced Monday it's purchasing point-of-care testing machines and coronavirus tests from Abbott. The supplies will be distributed throughout the U.S. to public health labs.
- The department has purchased 1,200 of Abbott's ID Now instruments, an Abbott spokesperson said Tuesday, and more than 30,000 of the quick turnaround COVID-19 tests that run on them, an HHS spokesperson said.
- Walgreens and CVS Health are also expanding their drive-thru testing services using the point-of-care platform. While Abbott said the majority of the rapid tests are going to hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care clinics, it called drive-thru testing "another important testing strategy to prevent community transmission."
Abbott made headlines March 27 when FDA gave an emergency use authorization to a new coronavirus test that the company contends can return positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes. The tests are run on its same machines that run strep and flu tests across the country.
Compared to an earlier Abbott test and ones from competitors Roche and Thermo Fisher and lab networks Quest and LabCorp, whose services take hours or days to process, the speed and footprint of Abbott's point-of-care test garnered shoutouts from the Trump administration.
But the small machines don't have the ability to run many of the tests at once like high-throughput molecular diagnostics platforms, and the company is still ramping up manufacturing. As of Tuesday morning, Abbott's latest figures on the number of tests it had distributed beginning March 31 were current through Friday, at which point it had shipped 190,000 tests to customers in 21 states.
The company confirmed Tuesday it's producing 50,000 of the tests each day and will "continue to ship daily to more customers in more places."
The HHS spokesperson said the federal government is sending an unspecified number of machines to public health labs in all 50 states as well as the Pacific Islands. The Indian Health Service will receive 250, the state of Alaska will receive 50, and additional machines will be allocated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Strategic National Stockpile.
Part of the impetus behind the government purchase is that "state labs cannot compete on pricing for cutting edge test machines on the open market," the HHS spokesperson said. And the decision to invest in the Abbott tests builds on existing infrastructure, as there were already 18,000 of the ID Now devices throughout U.S. states. The CDC-supported International Reagent Resource will be involved with resupplying tests to state health labs.
Walgreens on Tuesday announced 15 new testing sites using the Abbott test across seven states: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas. Walgreens said it's working with HHS to plans the sites in "select hot spot markets with escalating rates of COVID-19 cases." Across the sites, which Walgreens expects will go live later this week, the company anticipates being able to test up to 3,000 people per day.
The announcement followed CVS' news Monday it's expanding drive-thru testing to Georgia and Rhode Island using the same Abbott test. CVS told MedTech Dive it anticipates being able to run 1,000 tests per site each day but is "not providing details about the number of tests we have ordered or run to date."