The Omicron variant is in the United States, and all indications are that it spreads much faster than previous variants of the disease, even if it results in infections that are less deadly.
Now, a new report says that those circumstances could lead to a run on test kits
The Health and Human Services Department’s Testing and Diagnostic Working Group believes that the supply of tests in the United States has the potential to become stretched by late January or early February, and have been warning manufacturers and others as is the case now, according to Politico.
The worry is that demand will “double or triple” in the coming months, from the current total of about 1.6 million per day to as many as three to five million a month from now.
One of Politico’s sources stated that Omicron will replace Delta as the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States within four weeks.
“Testing demand involves many behavioral variables, but we are focused on preparedness and continuing to make sure plenty of tests are available along with vaccines, boosters, and other tools to help protect the American people,” an HHS official told Politico.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the latest CDC modeling shows that Omicron is “rapidly spreading” in the United States and that there is worry that it could form a “triple whammy” with the Delta variant and the flu for a very troublesome winter. Another scenario has the Omicron surge taking place later, in the spring.
“They’re considering the information at the highest levels right now, and thinking through how to get the public to understand what the scenarios mean,” an administration official told The Washington Post.
Also, this week, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the administration doesn’t believe that it will be necessary for Americans to wait for an Omicron-specific booster, even as Pfizer is currently developing one. The strategy, instead, entails encouraging Americans to get the existing booster.
“The hope is that it is going to be less severe, but the concern is that the numbers could be so great, even if proportionally less people have to be hospitalized, the numbers are much higher and a lot of people are going to be really sick and overwhelm things,” Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health officials told The Washington Post.
Despite the potential for a shortage of tests, hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, after running short of it during the initial onset of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, according to The Washington Post.
As of Wednesday, Omicron had been spotted in thirty-six states, although no deaths had been reported yet in the United States.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.