Supply Shortages at COVID Testing Sites

Photo Credit: Jakayla Toney, Uplash

Sajina Jacob – Staff Writer

“I just wonder how much longer they can continue to do it.”

Dr. Kathleen Beavis, a professor of pathology and the medical director for quality at the University of Chicago’s laboratories is overwhelmed by the number of individuals at COVID testing centers during this surge in cases.

Currently, more than 14 million people have been confirmed for the coronavirus in the US. According to NPR, tens of thousands of new cases are reported daily across the country.

Many labs are now facing supply shortages. Suppliers are manufacturing as much as their facilities allow, but it is still not enough, according to NBC. These limitations go further than just testing kits for COVID, with this shortage, basic testing materials such as chemical reagents and plastic pipette tips are in shortage as well.

“We’re still far behind where we need to be with testing. And as these cases skyrocket, the need for tests are far outpacing what we have,” Heather Pierce, senior director for science policy and regulatory counsel at the Association of American Medical Colleges stated in an interview with NPR.

In November, there were 1.4 million tests given daily as opposed to 800,000 during September, according to data gathered by the COVID Tracking project.

Long lines and wait times are slowly increasing with the surging number of cases. Half of labs are reporting shortages of test kits and two-thirds are reporting shortages of crucial chemicals and other supplies, despite government efforts.

With flu season not even in full effect yet, this situation is only expected to get worse, according to NPR. They believe a demand for tests will increase as the holidays approach and people rush to get tested to visit their families.

This has prompted a difficult request to those showing no symptoms by Dr. Geoffrey Baird, who oversees all Covid-19 diagnostics as the acting chair of the University of Washington’s laboratory system:

“We’re asking folks now, you know, please don’t go get tested.”

With the supply shortage, labs have had to start test pooling, testing multiple patient samples at once, to try and stretch their already limited supplies as far as they can go.

The Trump administration officials have stated that in addition to rushing supplies to labs, the federal government has also been doing what it can to ramp up testing., including the opening of special testing sites in areas with surges in cases and rapid-testing programs for nursing homes and school.

The CDC recommends celebrating the holidays virtually or with members of your own household.