Despite Promises, Testing Delays Leave Americans ‘Flying Blind’

Wendy Bost, a spokeswoman for Quest, which introduced its coronavirus tests on March 9, said the company had ramped up its testing and could now process more than 35,000 tests per day — over 200,000 each week — at its 12 labs around the country. Last week, Quest asked hospitals to identify health care workers and symptomatic patients for priority processing and she said the company was providing results now on an average of a day for that population.

To date, Quest has processed nearly 550,000 coronavirus tests, Ms. Bost said. The current turnaround time for other patients, she said, is now two to three days although she acknowledged there was a longer wait in the areas most affected, like Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Miami.

LabCorp has four labs running, also averaging about 35,000 to 40,000 coronavirus tests each day, the company said. Mike Geller, a LabCorp spokesman, said it had tested about 500,000 samples, and that the time for processing varied, based on demand.

“LabCorp, along with other laboratories, is experiencing unprecedented and rapidly increasing demand for Covid-19 testing in the midst of this national health emergency,” Mr. Geller said.

The latest test approvals by the F.D.A. include one by Abbott Laboratories, called ID Now, which can provide results in a few minutes; and others, like Roche and Hologic, which perform automated, high-volume testing in commercial and hospital labs.

These tests work by finding fragments of genetic material from the virus to indicate a current infection.

But these tests will take weeks, if not months, to be manufactured on a scale that can be widely shipped to most institutions. For many hospitals, however, the cost of the instruments needed to run those tests will be prohibitive. And even the nation’s top hospitals have reported that they are very low on the materials needed to run the tests.

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