With slow vaccination rates threatening the likelihood of herd immunity, companies and federal and state governments are pouring billions of dollars into a future in which Covid-19 testing remains a key component for resuming normal life in the U.S.
Public-health officials increasingly expect pockets of America will remain largely unvaccinated. That has businesses and health officials counting on testing as a means for controlling the virus.
Test developers including Abbott Laboratories , the University of Illinois and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York have been testing their own employees and students to prove that—short of herd immunity—frequent testing can allow for the safe return to work and school. So far, they have sold tests to companies and organizations like Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. , Toyota Motor Corp.’s manufacturing plant in Lexington, Ky., Amy’s Kitchen Inc., Bloom Energy Corp. and Argonne National Laboratory, as well as universities and public schools.
Testing nationwide has declined as the U.S. vaccination campaign has picked up speed, and the pace of testing isn’t expected to return to pandemic peaks. But many predict Covid-19 tests will continue to be a sustainable business, because they remain critical for people who have symptoms, who are unvaccinated or who are in outbreak situations, public-health experts say.
Developers are competing to bring test costs down and to convince businesses that testing can keep children in school and employees in offices. Abbott Chief Executive Officer Robert Ford said the company is making a bet that testing will be crucial even beyond the phase of widespread vaccination.