Sep 23, 2020 - Health

Supply shortages continue to plague COVID-19 testing

Illustration of split with gloved thumbs up hand on the right, and crossed fingers without gloves on the left
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Supply shortages are still a problem for coronavirus testing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Health systems are being forced to limit who gets tested, sometimes limiting tests to the most essential patients — which is far from an ideal testing strategy.

Details: The problem is largely a shortage of reagents, or chemicals used to process the tests, medical officials told WSJ.

  • The shortages are caused by regional increases in demand when cases rise or because of increased testing at places like schools and nursing homes.
  • Two-thirds of labs are struggling to get enough reagents and test kits, according to a survey done last month by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.

What we're watching: The problem probably isn't going to get any better, because flu tests rely on a lot of the same supplies and personnel, per WSJ.

The big picture: We haven't yet solved our testing problem. Contact tracing isn't going well. People with the virus often don't isolate, either because they don't know they have it, they don't want to isolate or they have no reasonable way of doing so.

  • This is at the core of why the U.S. has failed to deal with the virus as effectively as other wealthy countries.
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