COVID-19 Spreading Faster Than Testing Capacity
July 23, 2020 — The coronavirus is spreading faster in the U.S. than labs can expand their ability to test more people, according to CNBC.
That, in turn, leads to a slower turnaround time for results. LabCorp is processing about 165,000 COVID-19 tests per day and averaging between 3 to 5 days to return results to someone not in the hospital. In late March, the labs ran about 20,000 tests per day.
“We’re continuing to increase capacity every single week over week,” Adam Schechter, the CEO of LabCorp, said on CNBC’s Closing Bell.
“The problem is that the number of tests being asked to be performed each week is growing faster than the capacity that we can build,” he said.
A turnaround time of 2 to 3 days is necessary to effectively track and trace contacts and inform people that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus. An average of 3 to 5 days makes contact tracing less effective.
“We need all states to ensure we’re doing everything we can to better control the virus,” he said. “If we can do that, then we’ll be able to have the tests that we need.”
As people look to the fall, Schechter said the U.S. needs to be “really thoughtful” about the demand for COVID-19 testing. As students head back to school and more people return to work, the demand for testing could overwhelm labs and further delay results.
“I am concerned about it, but we have to look at it holistically,” he said.
Testing is part of a bigger picture, he added, including therapeutics, vaccine research and ongoing precautions such as social distancing and face masks.
“If we pull those things together, I believe we can beat this virus and get the country up and running again in a very significant way,” he said.