Millions More Virus Tests Come With New Problem

Keeping track of results isn't so easy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 18, 2020 3:00 PM CDT
US Has Millions More Virus Tests—and a Problem
In this Friday, July 17, 2020 file photo, health care workers take information from people in line at a walk-up COVID-19 testing site during the coronavirus pandemic in Miami Beach, Fla.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

After struggling to ramp up coronavirus testing, the US can now screen several million people daily, thanks to a growing supply of rapid tests. But the boom comes with a new challenge: keeping track of the results, the AP reports. All US testing sites are legally required to report their results to public health agencies. But state health officials say many rapid tests are going unreported, which means some infections may not be counted. And the situation could get worse, experts say. The federal government is shipping more than 100 million of the newest rapid tests to states for use in public schools, assisted living centers and other new testing sites. "Schools certainly don't have the capacity to report these tests," said Dr. Jeffrey Engel of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

"If it's done at all it's likely going to be paper-based, very slow and incomplete," he added. Early in the outbreak, nearly all US testing relied on genetic tests that could only be developed at high-tech laboratories, and people had to wait about two to three days to get results. Experts pushed for more "point-of-care" rapid testing that could be done in doctors offices, clinics, and other sites to quickly find people who are infected, get them into quarantine and stop the spread. Beginning in the summer, cheaper, 15-minute, nasal swab tests became available. The millions of new tests from Abbott Laboratories now going out to states are even easier to use: They're about the size of a credit card and can be developed with a few drops of chemical solution.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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