Mar 12, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus tests are still extremely difficult to get in the U.S.

A lab technician testing for coronavirus in Lake Success, New York. Photo: Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are rapidly increasing, but too many people still can't get tested.

Between the lines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's failed diagnostic test may be the original sin of our initial response to COVID-19, and we're still learning about the effects of allowing the virus to spread undetected.

The big picture: A lot of labs are now making tests, and testing capacity is steadily increasing.

  • But some areas have the ability to get results in hours, while others must wait days, as the Wall Street Journal reports. That's because some patients are receiving care closer to the testing facility than others.
  • States, counties and providers all have different criteria for who should be tested, and some of these criteria are still very limited — meaning that some patients with signs of the coronavirus aren't getting tested.
  • Some providers don't have enough protective gear, and so aren't testing patients in order to avoid infecting health care workers.

What's more, shortages of testing supplies may threaten our testing capacity in the near future.

  • As Politico reported Monday, there may be shortages in RNA-extraction kits that are a necessary component of the tests.
  • The New York Times reported yesterday that labs are also facing potential shortages of key chemical ingredients and having trouble obtaining other testing materials.

The bottom line: "What's most important now is there is still a significant shortage of reagents, and laboratories are really scrambling to get access to the reagents," Karen Carroll, director of the Division of Medical Microbiology at John Hopkins, told me. "That's the crisis we're all facing right now."

Go deeper: The two uncertainties of the coronavirus

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 3,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus surpassed 3,000 late Monday.

The state of play: There were more than 164,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. early Tuesday — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data. The COVID-19 death toll stood at 3,170. The number of recoveries had risen to more than 5,900.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 9 hours ago - Health

What the U.S. can learn from other countries in the coronavirus fight

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Note: Cases are shown on a logarithmic scale; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The countries that have most successfully fended off the novel coronavirus have mainly done it with a combination of new technology and old-school principles.

Why it matters: There's a lot the U.S. can learn from the way other countries have handled this global pandemic — although we may not be able to apply those lessons as quickly as we'd like.

Go deeperArrowMar 28, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus cases top 1,000 as states scramble to curb the spread

A stretcher is moved from an AMR ambulance to the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The number of cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. soared to 1,037 and the death toll to at least 31 by early Wednesday, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

The big picture: Nearly 40 states had reported cases by Tuesday and at least 12 have declared a state of emergency — Washington, California, New York, Oregon, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Florida and Michigan — which reported its first two cases on Tuesday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 11, 2020 - Health