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Poor planning, labor shortage to blame for COVID-19 test delays

‘All in all, it seems like a perfect storm contributing to the delays,’ logistics expert says

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern University logistics expert Hani S. Mahmassani is available to discuss the shortage of COVID-19 test kits and nationwide delays to receive test results. He can explain the nature of the problem and why it’s happening.

The director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center, Mahmassani has led workshops on the logistics of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, featuring key stakeholders from the medical community, pharmaceutical industry and logistics companies.

Mahmassani is the William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. He is a specialist in logistics systems, supply chain networks, disaster management and large-scale events and evacuations. He also has developed models of COVID-19 spread through mobility to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation measures and how these measures are impacting the behavior of businesses and households. These models are applicable to any kind of contagious disease, beyond COVID-19.

He can be contacted directly at

Quote from Professor Mahmassani:

“There is a clearly a testing demand surge driven by the omicron variant, but there is also a lack of readiness, which should have been put in place in anticipation of the holiday period. So the story may be more one of failure to order sufficient test kits — including the shortage of home antigen tests — and to ramp up production in sufficient time. There is also a lab capacity issue — one that may be accelerated by labor shortages related in part to increasing cases among workers. All in all, it seems like a perfect storm contributing to the delays we are witnessing. 

“Transportation does not seem to be the problem, but rather it is one of poor capacity planning.”

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