CES 2022 attendees will receive free Covid tests as omicron nerves increase

CES 2022
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As the COVID pandemic hits a new winter surge, the country’s biggest consumer electronics show is going on the offensive: All attendees of CES 2022 are being asked to take a COVID-19 PCR test before they enter any of the venues.

The nail biter of “will they or won’t they” forge ahead with the eagerly anticipated Las Vegas trade show entered a new phase today as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) announced that, in addition to requiring all participants to be vaccinated and practice social distancing, they will receive free 15-minute, nose swab Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self-Test kits.

“In August, we announced that every CES attendee must be fully vaccinated. CES will also provide complimentary COVID-19 rapid tests, onsite at badge pickup locations, as an additional step to protect the health and safety of all our attendees, exhibitors and staff,” said CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro in a statement.

Attendees will collect the kits when they arrive for badge pickup and can take the tests in the privacy of their hotel rooms. The goal is for anyone who wants to walk the trade show floors to have a negative test a full day before showing up at any of the convention halls.

While some attendees have expressed concern about the rise of the omicron variant, most people we asked said they plan to attend regardless.

“We're sending a fully vaxxed skeleton crew – the same crew that was scheduled to go pre-Omicron,” Win Cramer, CEO of the consumer audio company JLab Audio, told TechRadar.

Big tech, big plans, big names

The CES 2022 event opens up officially on January 5 and runs through January 8. But journalists and those setting up their show booths will start arriving as early as January 2. The CTA tells TechRadar that test kits will be available on January 2.

While the scale of what the CTA is planning sounds enormous, CES in 2022 is actually far more manageable than in past years: CTA has promised tens of thousands of attendees but it's unlikely to be anywhere near the 175,000 at CES 2019, and fewer than half as many exhibitors will trot out their wares as in 2019.

Other previously announced CES 2022 health protocols remain in place, including mask requirements, proof of vaccination, better venue ventilation, wider show floor design, and badges that indicate by color if you’re comfortable with a handshake, elbow tap, or prefer to keep your distance.

In more positive news, CES is still attracting big names, including U.S Secretary of Transportation and new dad Pete Buttigieg who’ll speak, naturally, on the future of transportation ... at what we’re sure is a safe distance from all CES 2022 attendees.

Ed note: Updated to correct the estimated number of attendees.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.