POST 40. July 27, 2020. CORONAVIRUS.” One canon of medical practice is that you order a test only if you can act on the result. And with a turnaround time of a week or two, you cannot. What we have now is often not testing — it’s testing theater.”

“MLB and the NBA are getting coronavirus test results quickly and frequently. Some say that’s a problem in places where the results are sometimes so slow that they are worthless.”

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“Any stimulus should be directed at the root cause of our recession: dealing with Covid. I know it isn’t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results. My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents, but was told she didn’t qualify. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic.” Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. (P)

“President Trump has used increased coronavirus testing as an explanation for the surge in case counts across the U.S.

“If we didn’t test, you wouldn’t be able to show that chart,” Trump said in response to a question from Chris Wallace about rising U.S. Covid-19 cases in a Fox News interview that aired on July 19. “If we tested half as much, those numbers would be down.”

But a CNBC analysis of testing data found that even as the U.S. has increased its testing capacity, cases of the virus are being found at a higher rate, a pattern that contradicts what epidemiologists say should be happening as a country gets a pandemic under control.

“That claim is patently false,” said Dr. Yonatan Grad, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard, in response to the idea that increased testing explains the recent outbreak. “It is at best misleading, and at worst intentionally subverting public health responses.”

In interviews with CNBC, epidemiologists pointed to the “percentage of positive tests” as a way to understand whether the growth in U.S. coronavirus cases is due solely to increased testing. When coronavirus tests are in short supply, only the sickest individuals are typically tested, causing the share of positive tests out of total tests to be high. But as more tests become available, those with mild or no symptoms — who are less likely to have Covid-19 — are able to get tests, which would lead to a lower positivity rate if the virus were not spreading.

The percentage of positive tests in the U.S. has increased from 5.4% on Memorial Day to 8.6% on July 23, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project. Daily testing nationwide has nearly doubled over that period, from an average of 410,000 daily tests performed on May 25 to more than 775,000 daily tests as of July 23. To account for daily reporting fluctuations, CNBC’s analysis used a seven-day average of cases and tests to calculate percent positive rates…

“If the disease was not spreading and you were increasing testing, then the fraction positive should stay stable or go down,” Dr. Grad told CNBC. “But in fact we’re seeing that the fraction of tests that are positive is going up as testing is going up. That is a clear indication that there is increasing spread of the virus.” (R)

“Lines for coronavirus tests have stretched around city blocks and tests ran out altogether in at least one site on Monday, new evidence that the country is still struggling to create a sufficient testing system months into its battle with Covid-19.

At a testing site in New Orleans, a line formed at dawn. But city officials ran out of tests five minutes after the doors opened at 8 a.m., and many people had to be turned away.

In Phoenix, where temperatures have topped 100 degrees, residents have waited in cars for as long as eight hours to get tested.

And in San Antonio and other large cities with mounting caseloads of the virus, officials have reluctantly announced new limits to testing: The demand has grown too great, they say, so only people showing symptoms may now be tested — a return to restrictions that were in place in many parts of the country during earlier days of the virus.

“It’s terrifying, and clearly an evidence of a failure of the system,” said Dr. Morgan Katz, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In the early months of the nation’s outbreak, testing posed a significant problem, as supplies fell far short and officials raced to understand how to best handle the virus. Since then, the United States has vastly ramped up its testing capability, conducting nearly 15 million tests in June, about three times as many as it had in April. But in recent weeks, as cases have surged in many states, the demand for testing has soared, surpassing capacity and creating a new testing crisis.

In many cities, officials said a combination of factors was now fueling the problem: a shortage of certain supplies, backlogs at laboratories that process the tests, and skyrocketing growth of the virus as cases climb in almost 40 states and the nation approaches a grim new milestone of three million total cases.

Fast, widely available testing is crucial to controlling the virus over the long term in the United States, experts say, particularly as the country reopens. With a virus that can spread through asymptomatic people, screening large numbers of people is seen as essential to identifying those who are carrying the virus and helping stop them from spreading it to others….

Many places have been able to overcome some of the supply constraints that defined the earlier days of the outbreak, in part with their own resources. New York City, once faced with severe shortages as an epicenter of the virus, is now testing 30,000 people a day, officials say, an expansion that included the city building its own testing kits and partnering with private labs.

But even as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that anyone in New York State who wanted a test could get one, officials in other states have been left seeking a more robust testing system, and setting new limits on who can take one.

“We are too fragmented,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We don’t have a good way to load-balance the system.”” (A)

“The number of people infected with the coronavirus in different parts of the United States was anywhere from two to 13 times higher than the reported rates for those regions, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings suggest that large numbers of people who did not have symptoms or did not seek medical care may have kept the virus circulating in their communities.

The study indicates that even the hardest-hit area in the study — New York City, where nearly one in four people has been exposed to the virus — is nowhere near achieving herd immunity, the level of exposure at which the virus would stop spreading in a particular city or region. Experts believe 60 percent of people in an area would need to have been exposed to the coronavirus to reach herd immunity.

The analysis, based on antibody tests, is the largest of its kind to date; a study of a subset of cities and states was released last month.

“These data continue to show that the number of people who have been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 far exceeds the number of reported cases,” said Dr. Fiona Havers, the C.D.C. researcher who led the study. “Many of these people likely had no symptoms or mild illness and may have had no idea that they were infected.”

About 40 percent of infected people do not develop symptoms, but they may still pass the virus on to others. The United States now tests roughly 700,000 people a day. The new results highlight the need for much more testing to detect infection levels and contain the viral spread in various parts of the country.” (B)

“The director of the National Institutes for Health said on Sunday that long delays Americans are seeing across the country in getting coronavirus test results is undercutting their usefulness.

“The average test delay is too long,” Dr. Francis Collins said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And that really undercuts the value of the testing, because you do the testing to find out who’s carrying the virus and then quickly get them isolated so they don’t spread it around.”

As Covid-19 continues to surge in the US, some states, labs and public health departments are warning that turnaround times for diagnostic testing have slowed.

The challenges, which stem in part from persistent obstacles in the test supply chain, underscore that while overall US testing capacity has multiplied, the nation’s health system still struggles in some regions to rapidly detect the spread of the virus.

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Despite federal efforts to support testing in some cities and regions, major diagnostic companies said earlier this month that the growing demand for tests has in turn increased average wait times for delivering results. CNN previously reported results can now take an average of four to six days for the general population or in some states like Arizona up to three weeks.

Collins said Sunday that the government must invest in new technologies in order to keep up with the testing demand.”  (C)

“Health workers typically advise their patients to quarantine at home while they await their test results, out of an abundance of caution. To the extent that one can, “The best thing to do is to act as if you’ve been infected” in this interim period, said Olivia Prosper, an infectious disease modeler at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. But the longer people are forced to wait, the more difficult that advice is to follow — and the larger toll their absence from work or family responsibilities can take.

Additionally, negative results can be of little use if they are delivered after too long of a delay. Diagnostic testing, which searches for bits of the coronavirus’s genetic material, can only assess a person’s health status from the time the sample was taken, and can’t account for any subsequent exposures to the virus.

Some have held out hope that new, confirmed coronavirus cases could soon peak in certain states, after which parts of the nation might experience a much-needed respite in infections — as, perhaps, some regions did for much of May. But the duration of that apex, which might actually manifest more like a plateau, can’t be definitively forecast. With many laboratories stretched to or past their limits, a leveling-off in confirmed cases could indicate a slowing in the coronavirus’s spread. Or it could simply reflect a regional ceiling in testing capacity.” (D)

“Testing that takes five days or longer is of little use, researchers from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands reported Thursday in the journal Lancet Public Health.

“In our model, minimizing testing delays had the largest impact on reducing transmission of the virus and testing infrastructure is therefore the most critical factor for the success of a contact tracing system,” Marc Bonten, who helped lead the study, said in a statement.

Contact tracing is considered the gold standard for fighting an epidemic of infectious disease, but it requires testing all people who may be infected, isolating those who are, and then tracking down other people they may have infected and testing and isolating or quarantining them.

For these efforts to actually reduce the spread of the virus, three things need to happen, the researchers said. First, testing must happen on the day a person develops symptoms. Second, contacts must be traced starting the day test results come back. And third, there needs to be 100% tracing coverage.

With a testing delay of more than three days, not even perfect contact tracing could keep the spread of the virus from accelerating.

The researchers considered both conventional and app-based contact tracing methods. Because of their speed, app-based tracing methods were more effective than conventional methods, even with lower contact coverage.

In fact, app technology could keep the viral spread from accelerating even with a delay of up to two days, as long as there was 80% testing and tracing coverage.

Once the testing delay goes over to five or more days, app tracing “adds little effectiveness to conventional contact tracing or just isolation of symptomatic cases,” the researchers wrote.

“This study reinforces findings from other modelling studies, showing that contact tracing can be an effective intervention to prevent spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but only if the proportion of contacts traced is high and the process is fast. “ (E)

“Quest Diagnostics, one of the companies performing a significant amount of the coronavirus testing in the U.S., said Monday that its average turnaround time for test results is at least seven days for most patients.

The announcement illustrates how the spike in coronavirus cases is overwhelming the country’s testing capacity.

The company said Monday that its average time to get coronavirus test results back is now “7 or more days” for everyone except the highest-priority patients, meaning people who are hospitalized or symptomatic health care workers.

Quest said the lagging turnaround times are due to “soaring demand” for coronavirus testing that is overwhelming the company’s capacity.

The rise in demand comes as coronavirus cases are surging in many regions across the country.

“We attribute this demand primarily to the rapid, continuing spread of COVID-19 infections across the nation but particularly in the South, Southwest and West regions of the country,” the company said.

Such long turnaround times greatly hinder the country’s response to the virus by reducing the ability to do contact tracing to identify and warn people who have been in contact with an infected person to cut off further transmission.

With waits this long, someone could unknowingly continue to spread the virus for days after getting tested but before getting their results.

The long turnaround times are not limited to Quest. The American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents a wide range of commercial labs, warned at the end of June that the “significant increase in demand could extend turnaround times for test results.”” (F)

“The U.S. is testing over 700,000 people per day, up from less than 100,000 in March. Trump administration officials point out that roughly half of U.S. tests are performed on rapid systems that give results in about 15 minutes or in hospitals, which typically process tests in about 24 hours. But last month, that still left some 9 million tests going through laboratories, which have been plagued by limited chemicals, machines and kits to develop COVID-19 tests.

There is no scientific consensus on the rate of testing needed to control the virus in the U.S., which has the most cases and deaths of any nation. But experts have recommended for months that the U.S. test at least 1 million to 3 million people daily.

Health experts assembled by the Rockefeller Foundation said last week that the U.S. should scale up to testing 30 million Americans per week by the fall, when school reopenings and flu season are expected to further exacerbate the virus’ spread. The group acknowledged that their figure will not be possible with the current laboratory-based testing system.

The National Institutes of Health has set up a “shark tank” competition to quickly identify promising rapid tests and has received more than 600 applications. The goal is to have new testing options in mass production by the fall.

Until then, the the backbone of U.S. testing remains at several hundred labs with high-capacity machines capable of processing thousands of samples per day. Many say they could be processing far more tests if not for global shortages of testing chemicals, pipettes and other materials.

Dr. Bobbi Pritt of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says the hospital’s machines are running at just 20% of capacity. Lab technicians run seven different COVID-19 testing formats, switching back and forth depending on the availability of supplies.

At Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, lab workers lobby testing manufacturers on a weekly basis to provide more kits, chemicals and other materials.

“There’s no planning ahead, we just do as many as we can and cross our fingers that we’ll get more,” said Dr. Colleen Kraft, who heads the hospital’s testing lab.” (G)

“Atrium Health is processing coronavirus tests at just 20% to 25% of its capacity due to a national shortage of the chemicals needed to run the test, the Charlotte-based company’s president told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday.

Gene Woods, president and CEO of the not-for-profit system, said Atrium can handle 4,000 coronavirus tests per day with its in-house lab equipment. But they are processing far less than that, he said, “due to the national supply shortage in reagents.”

Reagents are chemicals used in a reaction to detect a substance and are needed in COVID-19 testing to get a positive or negative result.

“We could probably do four times the amount of tests and have close to same-day turnaround, the challenge is reagents and, still in some respects, swabs,” Woods said. “We really need to continue to beef up the supplies of reagents so that we can expedite the testing. That would be our request.”

Nearly five months after the first lab-confirmed coronavirus case in North Carolina, the state is again dealing with long wait times for test results.

The average turnaround time is now closer to six or seven days, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top health official. That turnaround time was two or three days in June.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said the turnaround time in the county is five to 10 days.” (H)

“Minnesota health officials are worried the state’s robust coronavirus testing capacity could be hampered by an increasingly stressed international medical supply chain.

Just a few weeks ago, Minnesotans were able to get the results of their coronavirus tests within about 24 hours. But now, the wait can be three days or more, delaying when contact tracers can begin investigating new infections.

“Health officials worry the ongoing national spike in cases could further impact Minnesota’s ability to screen for COVID-19 infections and return results quickly. Minnesota has screened on average about 12,000 samples per day since June 1 and is steadily approaching administering 1 million tests since the outbreak began.

The state currently has about 50,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and more than 1,560 COVID-19 deaths.

In some of the hardest hit parts of the U.S., test results can take a week or more — leaving Minnesota officials concerned about what may be on the horizon if supply chains don’t improve. Quick and precise testing is a key way to fight the virus by isolating positive patients so they cannot infect others.

“The faster the turnaround the better,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota’s health commissioner. “We are concerned this does have the potential to interfere with our testing capacity.”

Much of Minnesota’s ability to screen for the virus is based on a partnership between the state Department of Health, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and other health care providers. Both the Mayo Clinic and M Health Fairview are reporting wait times for results of about three days.

“Unfortunately, Mayo Clinic is not immune to the shortages we have been seeing nationwide,” said Dr. Bobbi Pritt, a professor of clinical microbiology at the Mayo Clinic. “Some of these big manufacturers, with commonly used tests, are not able to deliver what they had agreed to deliver.”…

Dr. Pritt says there already are worrisome national shortages on materials needed to process COVID-19 tests. Large medical suppliers like Roche, Abbott and Hologic rely on the same supply chains to manufacture products and they are swamped with rising demand as cases surge in the U.S. and parts of the world.” (S)

“A recent article by my colleague Keith Collins found that California is one of 34 states that are currently not testing enough and that the state is 34 percent of the level that researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute deemed necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus. By comparison, Vermont and Connecticut are way above, testing over 400 percent of the level above the target set by researchers. Arizona, Florida and Texas make up the bottom three.

And now, backlogs are causing delays in getting test results, so state officials have released new, stricter testing guidelines that will make it much tougher for many Californians who don’t have symptoms to get tested.

To understand how California’s testing performance matches up against other states, I asked Keith, a graphics editor, some questions about his findings and what it means for the Golden State.

According to your article, California is one of 34 states that you found to be below the testing target. What exactly does that mean, and what are the implications?

So California is pretty tricky because it’s so big. It’s in the top 10 in terms of daily tests per 100,000 people, which is pretty good, especially for a state its size. Unfortunately with testing, there’s not a lot of data that’s more granular than the state level so it’s hard to say where in the state testing is the worst.

In terms of the number of people it’s testing every day, it’s doing pretty well. But in terms of the target that Harvard has set as the minimum that a place needs to be doing to mitigate the virus, it’s way behind. It’s only doing 34 percent of that target right now.

How did researchers come up with the target goals in this model?

It’s based on the idea that anyone who has symptoms should be tested and then for anyone who tests positive, 10 of their contacts should also be tested. The idea is that you can’t really have a safe reopening if you’re not able to keep everyone who is sick isolated and that includes people who are asymptomatic. And right now a lot of places are just not testing people who are asymptomatic, at least not in a very concerted way.

These targets try to estimate how many tests you would need to do every day if you were going to identify nearly everyone who has the virus. And that’s going to include a lot of people who are not currently being tested right now.

It looks like there are currently 11 states, including New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts, that are currently meeting their target and six others that are close.

In the article’s charts you can see that a lot of those states only got to that level recently and some of those are trending downward again. Those charts are relative to the target so it can also mean that the target is rising and testing is steady. But New York and New Jersey really ramped up testing because they were hit so hard in the beginning. Still, only in early to mid-June have they started really catching up to that target.

It is a hard target to hit, but it is a conservative estimate. The Harvard researchers say that this target is really just to mitigate the spread of the virus. They have another estimate to suppress the virus. Their suppression target is way higher than this.”  (I)

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday gave emergency use authorization to a coronavirus testing method that could massively ramp up testing capabilities for the country.

The FDA is allowing Quest Diagnostics to test individual samples for coronavirus using a method known as batch testing, which mixes specimens from multiple people and tests the combined sample for coronavirus instead of testing samples one by one.” (J)

“Samples scraped from the back of patients’ noses and throats can now be bundled together and tested for the coronavirus in groups in one of the country’s biggest commercial labs. Quest Diagnostics, which handles tens of thousands of coronavirus tests each day, received authorization for the method, called pooled testing, from the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend.

The strategy helps conserve resources by running multiple tests using the materials usually required for one. It could also help Quest avoid backlogs and move testing along more quickly. Right now, demand for testing is so high that it takes an average of seven days for Quest labs to get results to patients.

However, the strategy can’t clear all testing roadblocks, and it may not work as well in the areas where it’s most needed: outbreak hotspots, where testing resources are stretched the thinnest. In those environments, where a high percentage of tests turn out to be positive, pools don’t end up saving materials — too many are positive, which means more retesting.

“When the positivity rate is high, pooling is not very effective, because you’re splitting apart way too many pools, and it’s just not worth your effort,” says Peter Iwen, director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory…

Pooling also doesn’t help once the rate of infections in a community starts ticking up. Iwen had to stop using pooled testing in the Nebraska lab a few weeks back because the percentage of tests that came back positive was too high — above 10 percent. In any random group of four or five tests, there was a high chance that one would be positive. If the positive rate is that high, pooling doesn’t tend to save a significant amount of chemicals or time.

The new instructions for the Quest pooled testing say that, if 13 percent of tests done at a lab are coming back positive, the lab should drop the pool size down to three. If 25 percent of a lab’s tests are coming back positive, they shouldn’t do pooled testing. Virginia and Massachusetts, home to the first Quest labs set to use pooled testing, positivity rate is about 6 and 2 percent, respectively. In Arizona, one of the hardest-hit states, it’s around 24 percent.”  (K)

“But what should the Food and Drug Administration do with a rapid test that is comparatively cheap but much less accurate than the tests currently on the market? A test like that is ready to go up for FDA approval, and some scientists argue it could be valuable despite its shortcomings.

At first blush, you wouldn’t want a medical test to be pushing out untrustworthy results. And that’s certainly the case for a medical diagnosis. But rapid test could be valuable if used to screen large numbers of people for infection repeatedly and frequently.

For example, some of the rapid tests under development don’t detect the virus in a person who is in the early or late stages of infection — they only catch an infection at its peak. Dr. Michael Mina at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that’s OK, under certain circumstances.

“As long as you’re using the test on a pretty frequent basis,” Mina says, “you will be more likely than not to catch the person on the day they might go out and transmit. And they’ll know to stay home.”

To be useful, such tests need to be widely available and affordable, he says. “I envision a time when everyone can order a pack of 50 tests for $50 and have those and use them every other day for a couple of months.”

When it comes to controlling the epidemic, that could be an appealing alternative to the current laboratory-based system, an overburdened process that has become a serious bottleneck. These days, some people are waiting a week or more for results, and by then they have potentially spread the virus to others.

Highly accurate at-home tests are probably many months away. But Mina argues they could be here sooner if the FDA would not demand that tests for the coronavirus meet really high accuracy standards of 80 percent or better.”  (L)

“The White House is trying to block billions of dollars for coronavirus testing and contact tracing in the upcoming stimulus relief bill, two Republican sources told NBC News, even as infections surge across the country and Americans face long wait times to receive test results amid high demand. 

Senate GOP lawmakers, in a break with the administration, are pushing back and trying to keep the money for testing and tracing in the bill, the sources told NBC News. Some White House officials reportedly believe new money shouldn’t be allocated for testing because previous funds remain unspent.

The White House declined CNBC’s request for comment. The Washington Post first reported the news.

The Trump administration also wants to block billions of dollars that would go toward bolstering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pentagon and the State Department to combat the pandemic, The Post reported Saturday, citing people familiar with the deliberations. 

While moving to block testing assistance, the Trump administration is trying to use the legislation to fund priorities unrelated to the pandemic such as a new FBI building, according to the Post.

The White House effort to block funding for testing comes after the administration relied on overly optimistic models which suggested the U.S. moved past the peak of the outbreak in the spring, according to a report in The New York Times. As a result, the administration pushed to reopen the economy and shifted responsibility for responding to the pandemic from the federal government to the states with disastrous results, according to the Times.

President Trump has called coronavirus testing a “double-edged sword” and suggested at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that officials should slow testing down. White House officials later said Trump was joking.

The Times’ report portrayed a president who feels trapped politically because cases counts inevitably increase as more people are tested, jeopardizing the reopening of the economy and damaging his re-election chances.” (M)

“Nearly four months after the pandemic’s peak, New York City is facing such serious delays in returning coronavirus test results that public health experts are warning that the problems could hinder efforts to reopen the local economy and schools.

Despite repeated pledges from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio that testing would be both widely accessible and effective, thousands of New Yorkers have had to wait a week or more for results, and at some clinics the median wait time is nine days. One prominent local official has even proposed the drastic step of limiting testing.

The delays in New York City are caused in part by the outbreak’s spike in states like California, Florida and Texas, which has strained laboratories across the country and touched off a renewed national testing crisis.

But officials have also been unable to adequately expand the capacity of state and city government laboratories in New York to test rapidly at a time when they are asking more New Yorkers to get tested to guard against a second wave.

The delays limit the ability of public health officials to quickly identify — and isolate — people who are infected while also diminishing the usefulness of New York City’s contact-tracing program. They also can lead to growing blind spots that obscure the extent of the virus’s spread, which could spell trouble as the city tries to reopen.

As a result, some public officials and laboratory executives say New York’s strategy of allowing anyone and everyone who wants a test to get one is unsustainable.” (Q)

“Coronavirus testing in the United States has been bungled in every way imaginable. The latest fiasco is perhaps the most Kafka-esque: Tests are now widely available in many places, but results are often taking so long to come back that it is more or less pointless to get tested.

If it takes up to two weeks to get results, we can’t detect brewing outbreaks and respond with targeted shutdowns. We can’t do meaningful contact tracing. We can’t expect people to stay home from work or school for two weeks while they wait for the result of a screen. We have no way to render early treatment and attention to those who test positive, to try to prevent serious illness. It’s a disaster….

One canon of medical practice is that you order a test only if you can act on the result. And with a turnaround time of a week or two, you cannot. What we have now is often not testing — it’s testing theater.” (N)

“MLB and the NBA are getting coronavirus test results quickly and frequently. Some say that’s a problem in places where the results are sometimes so slow that they are worthless.

Connor Kelley feared he had been exposed to the coronavirus while playing miniature golf at a friend’s birthday party, so he visited a drive-through testing clinic near Orlando, Fla. He was told to expect results in a few days. It took 10 days.

A few miles and hundreds of millions of dollars away, professional athletes are being tested every day. Their results are coming back in less than 24 hours.” (O)

“Federal, state and local officials on Sunday appeared to agree on one thing: Test results are taking too long.

But they gave conflicting assessments of the U.S. response to recent spikes in coronavirus cases, which have severely strained testing nationwide and led to renewed shortages of supplies and weeklong backlogs at major labs.

Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant health secretary overseeing the national coronavirus testing response, said the country was performing enough testing to “achieve the goals we need to achieve.”

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Giroir acknowledged that turnaround times were too long. But he asserted that while testing was still not widely available to anyone who wanted it — despite past claims from Mr. Trump that it would be — it was available to those who needed it.

Testing is considered crucial to understanding and stopping the spread of the coronavirus. When turnaround times extend beyond several days, it can render the information useless since those tested may have spread the virus to other people by the time their results are back.

Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, skirted questions about the administration’s early missteps by suggesting that medical advancements, not masks, would be the only way to end the pandemic. “Hopefully it is American ingenuity that will allow for therapies and vaccines to ultimately conquer this,” he said on the ABC program “This Week.”” (T)

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