A rapid COVID-19 test manufacturer trashed millions of products early this summer because it thought the pandemic was wrapping up

A pair of gloved hands hold a COVID-19 test kit
  • A manufacturer of COVID-19 rapid tests got rid of millions of supplies as sales decreased, but a surge of Delta cases have increased demand for the tests.
  • According to The New York Times, a site manager told workers, "The numbers are going down. This is all about money."
  • An executive at the company told The Times that the trashed materials were "test cards."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A manufacturer making one of America's most popular COVID-19 rapid tests dismantled millions of products at a Maine factory earlier this summer because the company thought the pandemic was coming to an end, according to a New York Times report.

Workers at Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturer, were told in June and July to put the products in garbage bags after virus test sales dropped in the spring due to diminishing virus cases in the US, The Times reported. The company also ended supplier contracts and "shuttered" another plant in Illinois that makes the test, The Times reported.

According to The Times, a site manager told workers at the Maine facility: "The numbers are going down. This is all about money."

But now, demand for the 15-minute rapid antigen test, BinaxNOW, is surging as the Delta variant spreads across the US, the report said.

In an interview with the New York Times, an Abbott executive said the destroyed materials were "test cards" which had "limited shelf life."

However, The Times claims that a photo shows that an estimated 8.6 million Abbott test cards with expiration dates onward of seven months were shredded.

"Since the onset of this pandemic, no company has made as many tests, as affordably, as Abbott," the company said in a statement to Insider. "We have not destroyed any finished BinaxNOW product, nor have we destroyed any usable test components needed by the market that could have been donated. In fact, because Abbott maintained usable test components, we're now able to scale up."

The company added in their statement that demand for tests diminished in May. "The lots of card components, shown in the photos in The New York Times article (143608R and 143467R), were at seven-month shelf life and were disposed of in accordance with our standard inventory management process," the company statement said.

The company also said that they stored "individual components" of the tests in the event they needed to ramp up test output.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were 157,810 new cases on August 18. Healthline reports that cases in the past 2 weeks show the highest average since early February.

Update 8/20/2021: This story was updated to include Abbott Laboratories' statement.

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