US coronavirus updates: Latest on cases, deaths and reopening the country

A lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit. Illinois, on April 10.
A lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit. Illinois, on April 10. Carlos Osorio/AP/FILE

Public health laboratories throughout the United States and its territories are still unable to meet the demand for Covid-19 testing, the Association of Public Health Laboratories says.

“Although the overall amount of tests performed has expanded, the testing environment continues to be resource constrained and supply shortages persist,” Kelly Wroblewski, APHL director of infectious disease, told reporters Thursday.

Wroblewsi said public health labs are still reporting shortages, including, for example, only having two days’ worth of the items needed to continue testing, such as swabs and or chemical reagents — the compounds needed to get a sample off a swab and into a form that can be processed and tested.

“In many parts of the country we’re still not in a place to meet the demand, particularly if that demand expands significantly. Some things have improved but others have not,” Wroblewski said.

There are 97 public health laboratories in all 50 states as well as Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.

The association’s chief executive officer, Scott Becker, said part of the problem right now is that the country is expanding testing and creating a Covid-19 testing system.

“This pandemic is showing us how dependent we as Americans are in that laboratory system which is largely invisible,” Becker said

Becker said the federal government could really help production for needed items, but it’s unclear when the issues might be resolved.

It might not ever catch up: APHL’s chief program officer, Eric Blank. “In my own mind, I’m not convinced that the supply chain will ever keep up with demand, particularly with tweaks in the plans that we’re seeing for contact tracing and so on,” he said.

 Becker said the shortages started globally.

“This is not just a US problem. It is our problem right now, but it’s really a problem elsewhere,” Becker said. “As other countries open up and, frankly, do less testing than what is needed here because of the scale and scope of our country, that may help us down, down the road. How long the road is, I really can’t say.”

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