Officials say demand for COVID-19 test could rise above 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 increases in the case of COVID-19 across the United States.
  • The CDC director said early data suggest Omicron is less serious but that “many people” will still get sick.

Officials in the Biden administration tell COVID-19 test manufacturers that the demand for tests may increase rapidly in the coming months due to the Omicron coronavirus variant, Politico reported on Wednesday.

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

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

A source told Politico that demand projection depends on whether Omicron turns out to be significantly more transferable than Delta.

Researchers are still evaluating the implications of the Omicron variant. Early data indicate that it may cause less serious illness than other variants, but that “many people” will still become ill, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.

Omicron was first discovered in the United States on November 15th. Walensky said that most people in the United States with confirmed cases of the variant have experienced mild symptoms such as cough, congestion and fatigue. However, early data also suggest that the variant may be highly transmissible and able to avoid the protection offered by the vaccines.

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

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

Do you have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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