COVID-19 testing in the United States is still riddled with supply chain problems. In many cities experiencing a surge of the virus, people are being turned away before completing a test and waiting five or more days for their results if they do get tested.
Here are 13 things to know about COVID-19 testing updates and complications as of July 9:
1. Fast and widely accessible COVID-19 testing is key to control the virus's spread, especially as the country reopens and it can spread through asymptomatic people.
2. HHS said the nation averages about 600,000 tests per week. The country conducted about 15 million diagnostic tests in June alone, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
3. The U.S. has conducted more tests than any other nation, yet ranks in the middle of the pack in testing per capita, behind Russia, Spain and Australia, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
4. Testing rates vary by state. Rhode Island, New York and Louisiana lead the country in tests performed per 100,000 people, while Hawaii, Idaho and Puerto Rico are at the back of the pack. Many states that are currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, including Arizona, Florida and Texas, are not among the top 20 for tests performed per capita.
5. Demand for testing is overwhelming the supply as infections increase in 37 states and reach record levels in Texas, Arizona and Florida.
6. On July 7, HHS opened free testing sites in Jacksonville, Fla., Baton Rouge, La., and Edinburg, Texas — three cities seeing significant increases in COVID-19 cases. The sites will be open five to 12 days and each can conduct 5,000 tests per day.
7. Supply problems have forced some cities and organizations to restrict testing to people who only have symptoms of the virus. Such is the case in Austin, Texas. To catch up on a backlog of test samples, Austin Public Health is not currently testing asymptomatic people. St. Alphonsus Health System in Boise, Idaho, rolled out a prioritization strategy for testing July 8, asking patients who are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms to consider staying home versus visiting a drive-thru testing site.
8. Wait times are also critical, as a large window of time between the test being taken and learning one’s results can invite more opportunities to spread the virus if the test-taker has the coronavirus. Even if the test is negative, extended wait times can leave people waiting in isolation for a longer period of time.
9. American Clinical Lab Association President Julie Khani issued a statement in late June noting that, "Every country across the globe is in need of essential testing supplies, like pipettes and reagents, and that demand is likely to increase in the coming months." Reagents are the chemicals used to prepare samples for testing, while disposable pipette tips place samples into lab testing machines. The ACLA represents commercial labs, like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp.
10. Quest Diagnostics issued an updated time range for results this week, noting that priority patients will receive results in one day while the average turnaround for all other patients is four to six days — up from three to five.
11. LabCorp's extended wait time is four to six days from specimen pickup, as it noted July 8.
12. CVS Health says its lab samples are sent to an off-site laboratory and typically returned within two to four days, but may take five to seven days in times of peak demand.
13. The quality of COVID-19 tests is also in question. On July 6, the FDA issued an alert that a COVID-19 test from Becton, Dickinson and Company showed a 3 percent rate of false positive results.