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AACC Survey Finds Nearly Half of All US Labs Still Do Not Have Supplies for Running COVID-19 Tests

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 Jul 2020
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A new survey of clinical laboratories in the US has found that nearly half of all responding labs still do not have the supplies they need to run COVID-19 tests.

The survey was conducted by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC, Washington, DC, USA) which has presented its findings to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, calling on the federal government to take a more active role in alleviating this problem, so that labs can increase their testing capacity in the midst of the virus’s latest surge.

As coronavirus cases in the US soar, the country’s labs have continued to work tirelessly to ramp up testing to help bring the pandemic under control. However, even though US labs are now performing an average of 800,000 COVID-19 tests per day, which is double the average daily number of tests performed in late May, labs in many areas are reporting delays of up to a week in getting test results back to patients. These delays render testing essentially useless in acute patient care and in contact tracing. The main cause of these crippling delays is the persistent shortage of testing and other essential supplies.

AACC conducted a survey to determine the full extent of these supply shortages and how they are changing as the pandemic progresses, in the hopes that this information can help guide the federal government’s response. AACC surveyed clinical labs across the US about this issue during three different time periods: May 1-24, June 1-5, and June 24-July 6. The results showed a troubling trend, namely that supply shortages have persisted over the last few months. In May, 58% of all labs surveyed reported problems getting supplies, a figure that only decreased to 46% by early July. Even more worrying was a rise in the number of labs that are unable to process all requested COVID-19 tests within a week because of supply shortages. In early July, 25% of respondents reported this problem, an uptick from 21% of respondents in May.

The specific supplies that labs have the most difficulty obtaining are COVID-19 test kits and the reagents, or chemicals, used to perform these tests. As of early July, 58% of labs reported problems getting test kits, while 46% reported problems getting reagents. 38% of labs also still reported problems getting the nasal swabs used to obtain patient samples for COVID-19 testing. In fact, out of all the items that respondents had difficulty obtaining in May, personal protective equipment (PPE) is the only one that was not in short supply in late June/early July. While 32% of labs had problems getting PPE in May, only 4% reported having this issue in the most recent survey.

“We at AACC are deeply concerned that clinical labs continue to struggle with obtaining the supplies needed to meet our nation’s COVID-19 diagnostic testing demands,” said AACC President Dr. Carmen Wiley. “While we recognize the difficulty the federal government is encountering with this pandemic, we urge the Task Force to use the data from AACC’s survey as a jumping off point to investigate these ongoing shortages, and to use the authority of the federal government to obtain and allocate these vital supplies.”

Related Links:
American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)


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