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."

Go deeper

Coronavirus cases increase in 17 states

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

Coronavirus infections ticked up slightly over the past week, thanks to scattered outbreaks in every region of the country.

Where it stands: The U.S. has been making halting, uneven progress against the virus since August. Overall, we're moving in the right direction, but we're often taking two steps forward and one step back.

Sep 17, 2020 - Health

WHO: Health care workers account for around 14% of coronavirus cases

A health worker collecting coronavirus samples in New Delhi on Sept. 16. Photo: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Though health workers represent less than 3% of the population in many countries, they account for around 14% coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization, the organization announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The WHO called on governments and health care leaders to address threats facing the health and safety of these workers, adding that the pandemic has highlighted how protecting them is needed to ensure a functioning health care system.

Updated Sep 18, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Though health workers represent less than 3% of the population in many countries, they account for around 14% of the coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization, WHO announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The WHO called on governments and health care leaders to address threats facing the health and safety of these workers, adding that the pandemic has highlighted how protecting them is needed to ensure a functioning health care system.