Increased demand for COVID-19 tests prompts Abbott to reboot Gurnee facility

Abbott Laboratories plans to reboot production of its rapid COVID-19 tests at a leased facility in Gurnee, just a few months after closing the operation.

"As demand for COVID-19 testing has increased, we have acted quickly to scale up again," said Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel.

"We're hiring a number of people - the vast majority temporary positions - at sites across our manufacturing network," he said.

Stoffel said there has been a "significant increase" in demand for rapid tests, including BinaxNOW, which Abbott manufactured and assembled in a 255,000-square-foot building at 605 Tri-State Parkway in Gurnee.

In early June, an estimated 2,000 workers were told their assignments had ended and the plant decommissioned. Production is scheduled to resume in coming weeks and the net has been cast for workers.

The company declined to divulge the number of employees it plans to hire or say how long the reopened Gurnee facility is expected to operate.

"We are giving priority to people who previously worked there and have adjusted our shift structure with pay beginning at $20 per hour," Stoffel said.

Abbott also is expanding operations to produce rapid tests at the Scarborough and Westbrook sites in Maine, Stoffel said. The company also produces a rapid test called ID NOW.

A week ago, recruiter Manpower posted openings for full-time positions in three shifts with Abbott. Pay ranges from $20 to $23 an hour, depending on the shift. The work involves the assembly of components, devices and/or the final product with supervision, according to the posting.

Abbott leased the Gurnee building in the spring of 2020. The value of interior modifications was $18 million, according to information submitted to the village.

Village officials say they haven't received official word from Abbott but wouldn't be involved unless the company needed additional permitting to expand or modify the facility.

BinaxNOW is about the size of a credit card. It offers results in 15 minutes and is available as an aid to quickly diagnose the virus, according to Abbott. Millions of tests previously were produced at the Gurnee facility, which operated 24 hours a day.

Abbott closed the facility after a "significant, rapid decline in COVID-19 testing demand," Stoffel said at the time.

The trend was expected to continue with the accelerated rollout of vaccines, reduction in new cases and other factors. But the situation reversed with the emergence of contagious variants and surges of COVID-19 cases.

As of Monday, nearly 1.45 million COVID-19 tests had been performed in Lake County since the pandemic began, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Lake County Health Department reported the county in the "high" category for community transmission. On June 23, the 7-day rolling average of new cases reported was 10. The rolling average on Sept. 18 was 123, according to county data.

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