Abbott Labs’ touted rapid COVID-19 test not widely available around Chicago, Sun-Times finds

The Lake County company says every day it’s manufacturing 50,000 of the ID NOW tests that President Donald Trump said would be ‘a whole new ballgame.’

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The Abbott ID NOW test for COID-19 uses a portable, toaster-sized machine to search for a small section of the virus’ genome in a sample.

The Abbott ID NOW test for COID-19 uses a portable, toaster-sized machine to search for a small section of the virus’ genome in a sample.

Provided

Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW test for COVID-19, which can display a positive result in as little as five minutes and a negative result in 13 minutes, has been lauded by President Donald Trump as “a whole new ballgame” in expanding testing for the disease.

But it’s still not widely available in Chicago and the suburbs, a Chicago Sun-Times survey found.

Though the Lake County company won’t say where the recently approved tests have been distributed, the University of Chicago hospitals, Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Health, AMITA Health and Physicians Immediate Care said they have Abbott’s rapid tests at some of their locations.

And Walgreens has said it has the Abbott rapid test at its drive-through testing sites in Austin and Bolingbrook.

The Advocate Health chain of hospitals said it does not have the Abbott rapid test.

A Northwestern Memorial Hospital spokesman would not say whether Northwestern has the rapid test. Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood and NorthShore University HealthSystem didn’t respond to requests for information.

Asked where it has shipped the new rapid tests, Abbott would say only that, as of this past Saturday, a total of 566,000 ID NOW tests have been distributed to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Pacific Islands. The company would not provide figures for the Chicago area.

Even where the fast tests are available, many hospitals and clinics are combining them with their own in-house tests or outside lab tests. That means getting results can still take a couple of days or longer.

That’s the case at Rush and at the University of Chicago hospitals.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been adamant that testing, tracing and treatment must be part of plans to reopen the state’s economy.

More testing is considered key to fight the deadly disease, with as many as one-quarter of those infected believed to be asymptomatic, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But for now testing centers are focusing on symptomatic patients they’ve carefully screened, along with health care workers and first-responders.

The federal Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked approval for tests like the Abbott rapid test, waiving the stringent requirements normally imposed to prove the safety and efficacy of medical tests.

Abbott, which says its data show the new test is highly accurate, says it is manufacturing 50,000 ID NOW tests a day. It plans to increase manufacturing capacity to 2 million tests by June and is “working to expand beyond that.”

The rapid test involves using a nasal swab to probe deep inside a person’s nose, then placing the sample in a portable, toaster-sized machine that searches for a small section of the virus’ genome.

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