Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Heading into holidays, US COVID-19 testing strained again

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2020 | 12:56 PM
In this November 16, 2020, file photo, student nurse Ryan Eachus collects forms as cars line up for COVID-19 testing at a testing site set up at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — With coronavirus cases surging and families hoping to gather safely for Thanksgiving, long lines to get tested have reappeared across the US — a reminder that the nation’s testing system remains unable to keep pace with the virus.

The delays are happening as the country braces for winter weather, flu season and holiday travel, all of which are expected to amplify a US outbreak that has already swelled past 11.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths.

Laboratories warned that continuing shortages of key supplies are likely to create more bottlenecks and delays, especially as cases rise across the nation and people rush to get tested before reuniting with relatives.

“As those cases increase, demand increases and turnaround times may increase,” said Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

“So it’s like a dog chasing its tail.”

Lines spanned multiple city blocks at testing sites across New York City this week, leaving people waiting three or more hours before they could even enter health clinics.

In Los Angeles, thousands lined up outside Dodger Stadium for drive-through testing.

“This is insane,” said 39-year-old Chaunta Renaud as she entered her fourth hour waiting to enter a so-called rapid testing site in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Renaud and her husband planned to get tested before Thanksgiving, when they will drive to pick up her mother for the holiday.

“We got tested before and it wasn’t anything like this,” she said.

On the one hand, the fact that testing problems are only now emerging — more than a month into the latest virus surge — is a testament to the country’s increased capacity.

The US is testing over 1.5 million people per day on average, more than double the rate in July, when many Americans last faced long lines.

But experts like Johns Hopkins University researcher Gigi Gronvall said the US is still falling far short of what’s needed to control the virus.

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