COVID-19 Amazon
(Photo : Youtube/Ringbio) COVID-19 Amazon test kit approved by FDA

Amazon has finally received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration or the FDA for their COVID-19 test kit. The company is hoping that it can use it to bolster its employee screening program.

The retail giant is planning to use the test kit among its workforce as part of its COVID-19 response program. They are now starting to automatically sign up workers to get tested every 14 days, which is in line with its stated goal of testing front-line employees on a regular basis. 

Amazon COVID-19 test kit gets approved

The test kit is being developed by Amazon subsidiary STS Lab Holdco, according to an FDA filing. The test is done through a nasal swab that people can do themselves, either under the supervision of a health-care professional or at home.

Amazon plans to use the test kit among its employees as the company continues to practice COVID-19 preparedness.

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Depending on the work schedule, Amazon employees may be scheduled for an on-site test, or they will be given a collection kit so that they can administer the test at home.

It is still not clear if Amazon intends to make the test available beyond its workforce or if they will offer it commercially through its online marketplace. The representatives of the company did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

The FDA letter of authorization is addressed to Cem Sibay, the Vice President of Amazon Labs, who was previously a top executive of Amazon's Prime unit.

According to Business Insider's report last July 2020, Sibay was tapped to steer Amazon's efforts to create an internal COVID-19 testing lab. 

Amazon is leaning into healthcare

CNBC reported in June 2020 that Amazon created a dedicated team to help develop COVID-19 testing capacity, assigning research scientists, procurement specialists, program managers, and software engineers to support the company's effort. Amazon also launched standalone diagnostic labs in Sunnyvale, California, and Hebron, Kentucky.

Amazon has been vocal about eyeing medical diagnostics as an area of expansion. In 2018, the company looked at purchasing a start-up developing at-home health tests, and it operated a team dedicated to diagnostics within its moonshots group.

The FDA authorization comes as Amazon continues to expand its testing program for its delivery and warehouse employees.

In February, the company said its Kentucky laboratory had processed more than 1 million COVID-19 tests for their front-line employees from 700 testing sites.

Amazon stated that it has started to automatically assign regular testing appointments for some of its workers at its facilities, usually every two weeks, although the set appointments are voluntary. Employees could only sign up to get tested through an internal system in the past, but that has changed since.

The assigned appointments fall in line with Amazon's previously stated goal of testing the bulk of its front-line workforce every two weeks. This week, Amazon indicated that it would start setting up an on-site vaccination clinic at facilities in Missouri, Nevada, and Kansas.

In October 2020, Amazon stated that almost 20,000 front-line employees contracted COVID-19 between March 1 and September 19 of last year.

The statement was released after politicians, labor groups, and even Amazon employees pressured Amazon to disclose the number of workers infected by COVID-19. 

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Written by Sieeka Khan

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