Labs Warn of Possible Delays in COVID-19 Test Results Amid Surge in Demand
The American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) warns that some laboratories could soon exceed their capacity, resulting in longer wait times for test results. ACLA President Julie Khani says, "The surge in demand for testing will mean that some members could reach or exceed their current testing capacities in the coming days. In cases where the number of specimens received exceeds an individual laboratory's testing capacity, there could be an increase in their average time to deliver results." During the summer, delays by as much as seven days for receiving test results significantly hampered the response to the coronavirus. Khani added that shortages of testing supplies continue to be an obstacle. She observed, "Clinical labs are also facing delays or cancellations on orders for critical supplies, such as pipette tips." The rise in demand for testing comes as daily new cases are surging higher. The number of new tests has also been rising, now at about 1.3 million per day. An increasingly higher percentage of those tests are coming back positive, indicating that the spread of the coronavirus is intensifying.
Measles Deaths Soared Worldwide Last Year, as Vaccine Rates Stalled
New York Times
A joint report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that worldwide measles deaths increased to their highest level in 23 years last year. The analysis found that the 2019 worldwide death tally from measles — 207,500 — was 50 percent higher than just 3 years earlier. No measles deaths were reported in the United States, but measles cases rose to a record yearly high of 1,282 across 31 states, the most since 1992, according to recent data. Public health experts warn that the rising numbers are the consequence of years of insufficient vaccination coverage. Natasha Crowcroft, MD, senior technical adviser for measles and rubella at the WHO, says: "We can't carry on in the same way and expect a different result." Reported cases of measles so far have been lower this year, but public health experts believe those numbers reflect a significant undercounting because of the COVID-19 pandemic's disruptions to healthcare. Measles outbreaks have already occurred this year in at least one-half of the 26 countries that had to suspend vaccination campaigns because of the pandemic. WHO estimates that 94 million people are currently at risk for missing measles vaccines. Details of the international measles outbreaks were reported by the Measles and Rubella Initiative, an international consortium that includes CDC, WHO, American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, and UNICEF. The group says vaccination efforts should continue, especially during the pandemic.
Nursing Homes Still See Dangerously Long Waits for COVID Test Results
Kaiser Health News
A Kaiser Health News analysis indicates that it is still taking days for nursing home staff and patients to receive COVID-19 test results. In all, 1,150 nursing homes told the federal government they did not have sufficient supplies for point-of-care (POC) tests for all workers, according to the analysis. Federal officials started allocating millions of POC antigen tests to nursing homes in late summer. By January, the Department of Health and Human Services is slated to send roughly 23 million rapid tests, but only 38 percent of the nation's roughly 15,000 nursing homes have yet to use POC tests as of October 25. Many nursing homes still send PCR tests to laboratories for testing. In 29 percent of the approximately 13,000 facilities that provided their testing speed to the government, results for residents took an average of three days or more, the analysis found. Just 17 percent of nursing homes reported their average turnaround time was less than a day, and the remainder tended to get results in one or two days. Wait times for test results of staff members were similar. Meanwhile, Nevada, Vermont, Illinois, and other states have opted to prohibit antigen tests in nursing homes or limit their use.