As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations grows day by day, so too does the number of Americans getting tested for the virus, setting off long lines and possibly longer turnaround times, similar to issues seen over the summer.
The country’s testing chief, Admiral Brett Giroir, addressed those issues with reporters Monday, also calling on Americans to keep following virus precautions.
“We cannot test our way out of this,” said Adm. Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services and member of the White House coronavirus task force.
“We are now still in a critical and dangerous time. We have to double down on public health measures. And if we do, we can save thousands of lives and further societal disruption. We know what to do.”
Giroir encouraged Americans to continue to practice the protocols many have gotten used to over the last several months, including physical distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks and good hygiene.
Adm. Giroir also addressed new reports of long lines for testing across the country,
“That's going to happen from time to time," Giroir said. "We are responding to any state who wants to have surge sites. Just in the last couple of months, we've been to 17 states in over 500 locations to do surge testing … We're aggressively helping states in any way that we can.”
Last week, the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents most major labs across the U.S., signaled its members could soon be overwhelmed by the surge in testing.
“Member laboratories are experiencing a significant increase in the volume of COVID-19 test orders. Clinical labs are also facing delays or cancellations on orders for critical supplies, such as pipette tips,” ACLA President Julie Khani said in a statement. “The surge in demand for testing will mean that some members could reach or exceed their current testing capacities in the coming days.”
Giroir said he hasn’t yet heard reports of delayed turnaround times.
“The CEOs of the major laboratories said right now they're in good shape and are able to handle their issues,” Giroir said. “We will work with them like we work with everyone else on supplies. We have invested into pipette tips and all the suppliers across the chain.”
Adm. Giroir also said the department continues to distribute millions of rapid COVID-19 tests, specifically to nursing homes, schools and universities.
As of last week, Giroir said HHS had sent out more than 50 million BinaxNOW tests and that the agency plans to send out another 8 million by the end of this week.