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Discarded But Now Needed

This post has been updated to include a response from Abbott.

Workers at an Abbott Laboratories factory in Maine were instructed in June and July to discard test cards for the company's BinaxNOW antigen test for SARS-CoV-2, the New York Times reports. It adds that Abbott additionally laid off workers at its Maine and Illinois plants that made the test. Abbott, however, says the cards discarded were at the end of their shelf life.

This, the Times notes, came after a dip in demand for SARS-CoV-2 testing. But as demand has jumped back up, Abbott has told newly interested companies it cannot provide their testing programs with tests and drug stores have been selling out of tests, according to the Times, which notes Abbott is hiring back workers.

Robert Ford, the chief executive of Abbott, notes at the Times that test cards — not testing kits, which also include buffers, swabs, and instructions — were discarded and said they were nearing their expiration dates. The Times notes, though, that workers and pictures they took suggest some cards were not to expire for a few months.

The Times writes that "the story of the Abbott tests is a microcosm of the larger challenges of ensuring that the private sector can deliver the tools needed to fight public health crises, both before they happen and during the twists and turns of an actual event."

In a statement, Abbott says the lots of the cards pictured in the article were at seven-month shelf life and that they were discarded in keeping with their standard inventory management process. It adds that the "story implied that disposing of short-dated test components was the wrong thing to do; when, in fact, we took the best actions based on quality standards and the rapidly changing environment."