Sometimes, you just need a break to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries. Forget about the pandemic and self-testing!
While we posted Insta stories of blurry fireworks and underwhelming cheers, Jeff Bezos shared his NYE moment: standing poolside among palm trees on a yacht, sporting a groovy disco fit. Some were unimpressed with the #look.
The techy Nasdaq had its worst week since last February, plunging 4.5% after the Fed’s latest meeting (more on that in a sec). The US added only 199K jobs in December — fewer than half of what was expected. Still, unemployment inched close to pre-pandemic levels. But an estimated 5m Americans could be isolating at home this week for Omicron, leaving many businesses scrambling.
While Americans bear the burden of pricey Covid tests, pharma and retailers are raking in billions
Pre (and post) NYE test… Frequent Covid tests are becoming a necessity, from travel and family gatherings, to entering offices and schools. The US is logging record infections as Omicron surges and makes up 95% of cases. It’s nearly 4X as contagious as Delta among the vaxxed, but has been milder with fewer hospitalizations. Last month, a daily record of 2.3 Covid tests were performed in the US — not counting at-home swabs.
- US officials stress the importance of self-testing, but kits are in short supply To ease the crunch, the Biden admin said it would send 500M free at-home tests to Americans (that’s less than two/person).
- The ordering website is expected to launch this month. Meanwhile, the president told people desperate for tests to “Google it.”
Testing is a pricey habit… especially for people with lower incomes. Free testing is available to everyone in the US through 20K government sites (or 1 per ~17K people). But with hours-long lines at free sites, many are turning to lab tests, which can cost $200+, or $25 home kits. Some of the corporations benefiting:
- Retailers: Kroger and Walmart have hiked prices on at-home tests (from $14 for a two-pack to $24). Meanwhile, Walgreens raised its forecast after notching $3.6B in quarterly profit, as shoppers rushed in for at-home and on-site swabs.
- Test makers: Rapid tests can cost a few dollars to make, but companies like Abbott and Quidel have seen stunning sales. Abbott tripled quarterly profits last year after its BinaxNow Covid self-test kit became a top seller.
- Lab companies, which process PCR tests: Labcorp’s profit surged by 40%, to $4.2 billion in the first nine months of 2021. When the testing boom started, in late 2020, Quest Diagnostic’s quarterly profit doubled while Abbotts’ tripled.
Testing is out of reach for many… while demand is soaring. Covid testing in the US isn’t easy or affordable when compared to testing in many developed countries. Across Europe, home kits cost much less and are widely available. UK residents can request seven free rapid tests at a time. Even Biden said he’s “frustrated.” But some help is coming, like: additional testing sites in six states. Starting mid-January, those with private insurance can file reimbursement claims for home tests — but 150M+ Americans who aren’t privately insured won’t be eligible.