Supply shortages are forcing restrictions on who can get a COVID-19 test, and it’s happening at the worst possible time

Supply shortages are forcing restrictions on who can get a COVID-19 test, and it’s happening at the worst possible time

Healthcare providers in the US are again limiting who is able to get a coronavirus test due to shortages of supplies needed to process the test, The Wall Street Journal reported. 
These shortages come as the fall season the US is beginning. 
Flu tests also require the same supplies that the COVID-19 test needs. 
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A shortage of a chemical used to process the COVID-19 test has caused healthcare systems across the US to limit who is able to get a test — right before the start of the flu season — The Wall Street Journal reported. Some hospitals and facilities have gone back to limiting tests to the most vulnerable patients as supplies dwindle. Mark Steadham, president and chief executive of Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers, told The Journal that his hospitals are only getting about a third of their usual Abbott testing kits forcing them to scale back their testing. “We felt like we were just starting to get ahead of the virus,” Steadham told The Journal about the testing decline. 

Michael Dacey, president of Riverside Health System in Newport News, Virginia, also told The Journal that his hospital cut testing by 20% due to limited supplies. Those who are suspected of having COVID-19 but aren’t ill enough to be admitted to the hospital don’t get a test.”This is a big country, and we still haven’t been able to settle the testing issue. It doesn’t make any sense,” Dacey told The Journal. Public health experts sounded alarms last month when testing declined by 13%. That came after labs were so overburdened with tests that it sometimes took more than a week for people to get their results, giving them enough time to spread the virus. According to experts, without adequate testing, it makes it harder to get a handle on the outbreak.”One of the biggest obstacles to containment has been the fact that we don’t have a testing strategy and people don’t know their status,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Business Insider. “When you look at countries that have been able to contain [the virus], they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. They tested, traced, and isolated.”

In this case, while tests have expanded from 15.8 million in April to 37.6 million in August, the tools such as reagents needed to run those tests are in short supply making it hard to actually process the tests, The Journal reported.  The shortages are not expected to be resolved anytime soon, since the same chemicals are also used to test for the flu. Flu season is expected to start soon, and healthcare systems will have to start screening for both illnesses. Experts at John Hopkins University told the Boston Herald that the flu coupled with the coronavirus pandemic will burden both hospitals and testing systems. “These are two infections that are very similar in terms of how they present clinically, and so this may put an increased burden on our COVID-19 testing infrastructure,” Andrew Pekosz, virologist and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance, told the Herald.

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