COVID testing posing challenges nationwide

(NBC) New restrictions are being imposed on more and more cities with some even closing down again. And, once again, getting tested is becoming a challenge.

The lines are growing, from California to Wisconsin, to the streets of New York City.

Daily COVID testing jumped nearly 50% in the last month.

There are labs sounding the alarm about capacity and supplies, from reagents to critical tools like pipettes.

Dr. Melissa Miller runs a lab at the University of North Carolina Medical Center, which is working at half its capacity, she said, because of supply problems. “To have this gross shortage is really nothing like we’ve ever seen,” Dr. Miller said. “Sometimes we’re down to waiting on the next day shipment to be able to keep one or more of our instruments going, which is very stressful.”

Quest Diagnostics, one of the country’s largest labs, says its turnaround time is getting longer, with the average more than two days. But the Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News the supply concerns are overstated.

HHS Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir said, “I can’t give you a state by state answer to that, but there are literally tens of thousands of places to get tests around the country, several thousand sponsored by us and again if those states need help, we provide personnel, we provide extra testing.”

The Trump administration announced last August they were distributing 150 million new rapid tests to alleviate stress on the system. Now they’re saying just only a third have reached the states.

NBC News found that at least eight states distributed few, or none at all, as recently as last week. But HHS said they are ramping up the program and 8 million more tests will be shipped in the coming days.

Admiral Giroir said, “This is going to take and should take and is taking much of the load off of the laboratories and putting them at the point-of-care where people can get their results within 15 minutes.”

And in the meantime, people are waiting.

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