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April 6, 2020

US labs expected to face serious Covid-19 testing roadblocks

By GlobalData Healthcare

Despite the US expanding its Covid-19 testing to more than 100,000 tests each day, more testing is still required. This will prove to be difficult as US labs are expected to face serious roadblocks in the coming month.

In addition to public testing laboratories, the US is leaning heavily on private testing labs to expand its testing capacity to 100,000 tests per day. With a population of 330.3 million in the US, 100,000 tests amount to only 305.6 tests per million people each day. In comparison, Germany, which GlobalData expects to become the global leader in Covid-19 testing, is performing 8,063 tests per million people daily.

The US is expected to face serious roadblocks to testing in the coming month due to a worsening shortage in hospital supplies, such as masks, gowns, and other gear required by healthcare workers to protect themselves. In addition, the impact of Covid-19 has disrupted the supply of reagents necessary to perform Covid-19 testing with several shortages being seen, including basic items such as nose swabs.

One solution to address the need for greater testing is rapid, point-of-care (POC) diagnostic tests. The current standard of testing for COVID-19 is reverse-transcriptase (RT)-PCR, which requires the sample, after being acquired from the patient, to be sent to a testing lab where the test takes four to five hours to run. In comparison, rapid diagnostics, such as the POC test recently launched by Abbott Laboratories, takes just five minutes to return a result, and can be done in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, rather than requiring the testing device to be shipped off to a lab. This will support a quicker identification of cases and help curb the spread of the disease.

Another emerging issue is the growing backlog of tests that have not been processed yet. Last Saturday, of the 83,800 tests in California, results were only available for 27,251 tests, according to the California Department of Public Health. This means that two out of every three people tested for Covid-19 in California do not know their results.

This backlog is observed even for one of the nation’s largest commercial labs, Quest Diagnostics. Despite its ability to perform 30,000 tests a day, Quest was backlogged on April 1 with approximately 115,000 Covid-19 tests waiting to be processed. On average, the turnaround time for results takes four to five days. GlobalData expects that Quest will expand its testing capacity with an increase in trained personnel as the company increased its number of jobs posted by 8.8% between December 2019 and February 2020.

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