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CES 2022 Organizers Silent on Abbott Test Kit Procurement Deal

CTA won’t disclose the terms of its agreement to procure potentially tens of thousands of two-test BinaxNOW rapid antigen COVID-19 self-diagnostic kits from Abbott Labs for distribution free to anyone who picks up a CES 2022 badge for the Jan. 5-8 in-person event in Las Vegas. CTA announced the giveaway Friday in a series of elevated CES 2022 health and safety protocols to encourage, but not require, show participants to self-test for COVID-19 infections before leaving their hotel rooms and entering the Las Vegas Convention Center and other official venues (see 2112170033).

CTA imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for CES 2022 Aug. 17 (see 2108170038), but waited until Friday to begin encouraging CES 2022 attendees for the first time to get booster shots before leaving for Las Vegas, though still not requiring them. The show’s health and safety protocols say CTA “continues to monitor guidelines” from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Nevada and Clark County authorities and will incorporate their guidelines in its CES 2022 planning.

But CTA delayed for nearly three weeks heeding CDC's Nov. 29 upgraded recommendations on booster shots by not encouraging CES 2022 attendees to get boosted. The “increased transmissibility” of COVID-19's omicron variant sparked the CDC to announce four days after Thanksgiving that it was “strengthening its recommendation on booster doses” to urge all eligible U.S. adults to get one.

The free BinaxNOW self-test kits will be available at seven CES 2022 badge pickup locations, including three areas of McCarran Airport baggage claim, plus the Aria, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and the Wynn hotels, said CTA. Badge pickup for the first time won’t be available at the LVCC, replaced there by a customer service center where CES 2022 participants will need to go to show proof of vaccination if they don't upload their credentials onto the Clear Health Pass smartphone app. Several additional customer service centers will be scattered around town.

We asked CTA for details on how many BinaxNOW kits it will procure, as a measure of expectations about show turnout, plus how much it agreed to pay Abbott for the kits, if anything. Abbott CEO Robert Ford is to keynote CES 2022 Jan. 6 in the Venetian’s Palazzo Ballroom, and we also wanted to know if Ford’s appearance figured in any way in CTA’s BinaxNOW giveaway decision. “As a company policy, we do not share business or contract information,” emailed a CTA spokesperson. CTA referenced the new BinaxNOW giveaway Monday in a pre-Christmas reminder that Ford's keynote will be the first from a healthcare company at CES.

CTA is correct in encouraging CES 2022 participants to space the two tests in each BinaxNOW kit 24-48 hours apart, said an Abbott spokesperson. An Abbott YouTube instructional video has slightly different messaging, saying the tests should be taken at least 36 hours apart, and within three days. “The FDA has recently updated its recommendation that serial (frequent) testing be conducted twice over three days with at least 24 hours (and no more than 48) between tests, which is reflected correctly on the CES website,” emailed the spokesperson. He didn’t respond when asked if Abbott plans to update the video or delete the outdated one. The video was still active when we checked YouTube on Monday. He deferred other questions about the CES 2022 procurement deal to CTA, “as it was their announcement to make.”

Abbott didn’t respond to our follow-up questions about the company’s ability to meet surging demand for the BinaxNOW kits and whether the company’s agreement to furnish large quantities to CES 2022 would stretch its available supply. The kits typically retail for $23 each, except $14 at Walmart. They were out of stock online and at most physical store locations when we checked over the weekend, as authorities urge the public to get tested for COVID-19 before gathering with family for the holidays.

Under CTA’s BinaxNOW self-test regimen, the decision to stay away from the show for anyone who tests positive in the privacy of a hotel room would be on the individual honor system. CES 2002 will pick up the costs of free polymerase chain reaction onsite tests for international attendees whose airlines require proof of a negative test result before boarding their overseas flights home, said CTA: “Attendees will be required to present proof of outbound international travel within 72 hours of testing to be eligible.”

Others seeking the PCR tests onsite at CES 2022 would need to pay the costs out of pocket, said CTA. PCR tests generally cost about $150, said the University of Rochester Medical Center. Most insurers are paying for PCR tests if they’re “deemed medically necessary,” it said. Insurers also will pay for PCR tests in states that require them two to five days before surgery or a medical procedure like a colonoscopy, it said.

CES 2022 participants with COVID-19 symptoms who for whatever reason shun the BinaxNOW self-test kits have the option of taking a free rapid molecular nucleic acid amplification test at the first aid stations of several show venues, including the LVCC, said CTA: “You will be asked to remain in the observation area and will receive test results within 25 minutes.” Those testing positive will have their badges confiscated, and will be driven back to their hotels to begin 10 days in isolation, it said.