Jul 26, 2020 - Health

Top HHS official concedes turnaround time for testing is still too long

Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration's testing coordinator, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the average turnaround time for coronavirus test results is 4.27 days and acknowledged that he's "never going to be happy" until that figure is reduced.

Why it matters: Long backlogs make testing less useful — public health officials need to know what their local situation is like now, not what it was like a week ago. Delays are especially problematic if people who are infected continue to go about their lives while they wait for their results.

The big picture: Quest Diagnostics, one of the large commercial labs that Giroir said perform about half of the country's testing, said last week that its turnaround time is now at "seven or more days," up from four to five days at the end of June.

  • Testing capacity could crumble under the combined demand of the pandemic and the fall flu season, Quest's executive vice president James Davis told the Financial Times.
  • Harvard's Institute of Global Health has said that the U.S. should be conducting 3 million to 5 million tests a day in order to control the spread of the virus, but Giroir argued that data does not support that target and that anyone who "needs" a test can get one.

What he's saying: "What is true now is that anyone who needs a test can get a test. We are not in a situation, and I want to be really clear, whether it's Mick Mulvaney or anywhere else, ''I feel like going somewhere so I need a test.' That's not where we are," Giroir said.

  • "We are in the middle of a serious pandemic that we are trying to control and we are starting to control, all those hotspot states. You look at the data, the percent positivity has flattened or decreased."
  • "We have a large increase in the numbers of people wearing masks, we've closed indoor bars at the local areas, so hospitalizations are starting to go down. But let me be clear. We have to prioritize our testing."
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