Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) introduced its quick five-minute ID NOW COVID-19 test to diagnose COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, after the Food and Drug Administration gave the test an emergency use authorization last month. But a new report from Kaiser Health News suggests that lab personnel have growing concerns about how safe the test is for the workers administering it. In response, Abbott published a statement that said, "There is no merit to assertions that the ID NOW testing process is unsafe or endangers operators."

When the Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month that it was procuring both the ID NOW COVID-19 tests and the ID NOW devices that run the test for public health labs, Indian Health Services, and the Strategic National Stockpile, the agency noted that the test will save on personal protective equipment because "only gloves and a facemask are necessary to administer this rapid point-of-care test."

But healthcare workers are concerned that gloves and face masks aren't sufficient because the test requires the workers to swab the nasal passage of a potentially infected person. The swab is then put back in the original packaging, creating an additional potentially contaminated item that could spread the virus. And then, before the test is run, the technician has to vigorously mix the swab in an open container of solution, which could cause the virus to become airborne.

Technician performing a test on the ID NOW system that runs Abbott's COVID-19 test.

ID NOW system that runs Abbott's five-minute COVID-19 test. Image source: Abbott via PRNEWSWIRE.

Abbott designed the test to be portable, allowing for testing in drive-thru facilities that have been popping up all over the country, but the outside environment adds to the potential for increased issues. In the company's response to the Kaiser article, it said: "The sample receiver is only about one-quarter full of liquid reagent. Based on the low volume within the sample receiver, you do not generate a 'splash' when mixing a swab in the sample receiver."

Abbott has said it's producing 50,000 ID NOW COVID-19 tests per day to supply the growing need for COVID-19 testing.

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