The maker of a popular over-the-counter COVID-19 rapid test made in Westbrook and Illinois ramps up production as demand for tests soars and the federal government prepares to begin distributing 500 million tests to Americans.
Abbott Laboratories plans to produce 70 million BinaxNOW rapid tests in January and is set to “expand considerably further” in the coming months, according to John Koval, a spokesperson for the company. He said Abbott currently produces more than 50 million tests per month.
“We are producing 24/7 and have hired new workers since the delta surge and invested in automation to increase production at our manufacturing facilities in the United States,” Koval said in an e- mail. “We are seeing unprecedented demand for BinaxNOW and we are sending them out as quickly as possible. “
Koval did not respond to questions about whether Abbott plans to hire additional people in Maine or what proportion of the 70 million tests targeted for production next month will be produced in the state. He also wouldn’t say how many employees Abbott has at its Westbrook and Scarborough facilities. The Scarborough facility produces a COVID-19 rapid molecular test called ID NOW, designed for use in sites such as doctor’s offices and emergency care facilities.
Demand for COVID-19 testing has skyrocketed in Maine and elsewhere as the holidays approach, and health officials warning of the faster-spreading and more contagious omicron variant. Drugstore chains Walgreens and CVS announced this week that they would limit purchases of rapid home tests and warned that some test kits may be temporarily out of stock due to high demand.
President Biden on Tuesday announced plans to make 500 million rapid tests available to Americans for free starting next month. Websites will be set up where people can request tests to be delivered to their homes.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary told reporters that the tests would come from the “eight FDA approved tests” and that the federal government would also use the Defense Production Act to ensure that as many tests as possible are produced as quickly as possible. It was unclear on Wednesday what role Abbott would play in the new initiative.
“We have worked with the government since the early days of the pandemic to make our testing available in all settings, both rapid point-of-care testing and laboratory testing, and we will continue to work with them to understand more details, “Koval said in response to a question about Abbott’s involvement.
Chicago-based Abbott has been producing ID NOW test kits in Scarborough since March 2020 and then expanded to Westbrook, opening a facility in a former Olympia Sports distribution center. Documents filed with the city at the time indicated that Abbott planned to hire around 470 people at the Westbrook site.
The company, however, reportedly laid off around 400 people between the two sites in July, as demand for testing declined before the delta variant soared. Abbott currently advertises many vacancies in Maine on job boards such as indeed.com as well as all alone website, although it is not clear whether these jobs specifically involve the production of COVID-19 tests.
A deputy account manager at CoWorx Staffing Services, a national recruiting agency with an office in Saco that has worked with Abbott in the past, said on Wednesday the agency is working with Abbott but could not comment further on the terms. of their contract. .
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