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U.S. Exceeds Virus Testing Goals as Wait Times for Results Rise

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 7/7/2020 Shira Stein
a group of people standing in front of a building: A vehicle enters a Covid-19 drive-thru testing site in Inglewood, California on July 7. © Bloomberg A vehicle enters a Covid-19 drive-thru testing site in Inglewood, California on July 7.

(Bloomberg Law) -- The Trump administration has eclipsed its goal of performing around 12.9 million Covid-19 tests in June, but wait times to get results are increasing.

The U.S. has done about 16 million Covid-19 tests last month, completing an average of 600,000 tests per day, Brett Giroir, the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for health who has overseen the administration’s efforts to ramp up testing, said Tuesday.

Even though the U.S. has significantly expanded its testing since the pandemic’s early weeks, it’s still grappling with many of the same issues, including supply shortages and delayed results—hobbling the country’s ability to respond to and mitigate hotspots.

The Harvard Global Health Initiative estimates that the U.S. needs to do around 1.2 million tests a day to contain the outbreak.

Montana and the District of Columbia have the highest average wait time for test results—four to five days—and other states are starting to see similar delays, Giroir said. He added that labs are getting close to reaching capacity.

This week Quest Diagnostics, one of the biggest commercial labs in the U.S., said it’s seen Covid-19 testing demand continue to rise. For non-priority patients, that means average turnaround times will increase from 3-5 days to 4-6 days, Quest said.

Mark Levine, chair of the New York City Council health committee, said on Twitter Tuesday that the delay for results for New York City patients has exceeded that, running as much as seven days. “This fiasco is the result of a national shortage—STILL—of lab resources. We need the fed gov’t to once and for all get its act together and solve this,” Levine said.

Giroir said increasing the use of point-of-care tests—typically done in hospitals and urgent care clinics at the bedside of patients—will help advance capacity. He estimated the U.S. will be able to do 10 million to 20 million point-of-care tests per month in August or September, depending on production.

States were required to submit plans to the HHS for increasing Covid-19 testing in order to receive federal funds. Giroir said the plans for May and June will be publicly released July 10.

Data from a volunteer-led initiative to tally Covid-19 data called the Covid Tracking Project shows the U.S. did 15.3 million tests last month.

—With assistance from Emma Court

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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