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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

Birx contradicts Trump in election eve memo urging coronavirus action

White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Deborah Birx with President Trump at the White House in August. Photo: Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said in a memo Monday first obtained by the Washington Post that the U.S. is "entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic."

Why it matters: In the memo on the eve of the election, Birx contradicts President Trump's repeated claims that the U.S. is "rounding the corner" in the virus fight, as she calls for "much more aggressive action" on the COVID-19 response.

CDC says people with coronavirus can vote in person

Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a post Monday that people with coronavirus "have the right to vote, regardless of whether they are sick or in quarantine."

The state of play: Voters who are sick should "take steps to protect poll workers and other voters," like washing their hands before and after voting, wearing a mask, and keeping at a distance from others, the CDC wrote.

Nov 2, 2020 - World

Europe's coronavirus case counts are skyrocketing

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Europe is swiftly shutting down as the unprecedented spike in new cases hits perilous new heights.

The big picture: Cases are growing uncontrollably across most of the continent. While spikes in hospitalizations and deaths have thus far been less sharp in most countries, fears of overcrowded hospitals are growing. The U.S. may be tracking just two or three weeks behind.