An AACC survey of U.S. clinical laboratories found that nearly half of responding labs still lack critical testing supplies for SARS-CoV-2. AACC presented these findings to the White House Coronavirus Task Force in a letter that calls on the federal government to take a more active role in dealing with this problem.
AACC partnered with data analytics firm Edgeworth Analytics to determine the full extent of the supply shortages and how they are changing as the pandemic progresses. So far, the survey includes data from May 1–24, June 1–5, and June 24–July 6. The results show how supply shortages have persisted. For example, in May 58% of all labs surveyed reported problems getting supplies, a figure that had only decreased to 46% by early July.
AACC expressed particular concern about a rise in the number of labs that are unable to process all requested SARS-CoV-2 tests within a week because of supply shortages. In early July, 25% of respondents reported this problem, an uptick from 21% of respondents in May. Full survey results are available on the AACC website, www.aacc.org.
The specific supplies that labs have the most difficulty obtaining are SARS-CoV-2 test kits and associated reagents. As of early July, 58% of labs reported problems getting test kits, 46% reported problems getting reagents, and 38% of labs reported problems getting nasal swabs. Out of all the items that labs in the survey had difficulty obtaining in May, personal protective equipment (PPE) was the only one that was not in short supply in late June/early July. While 32% of labs had problems getting PPE in May, only 4% reported having this issue in the most recent survey.
AACC Joins Government’s COVID-19 Testing Forum
AACC will be a member of a new alliance of federal agencies and stakeholder groups organized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Testing Implementation Forum. Members of the forum will offer input on how HHS can deal with testing supply chain issues across commercial, public health, academic, and other sectors and define optimal testing in various settings—diagnostic, screening, and surveillance.
HHS wants the forum to aim to significantly increase public health laboratory capacity and implement a national surveillance strategy using CLIA. The group will seek out new techniques and technologies and work on building up a streamlined national laboratory testing reporting system and defined reporting standards. HHS also has a goal for the forum to improve technical assistance that could in turn improve testing among vulnerable and underserved populations.
HHS Invests in Reference Labs to Expand SARS-CoV-2 Testing Capacity
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced combined investments of $6.5 million in two reference laboratories to expand capacity to conduct up to 4 million additional SARS-CoV-2 tests per month. The money is going toward instruments, assays, and supplies from Beckman Coulter and Thermo Fisher for labs at Aegis Sciences Corporation and Sonic Healthcare. Together, the equipment will allow the labs to perform an additional 1 million tests each week by early October, according to HHS.
Aegis said it plans to expand the company’s workforce and begin construction on new space at its testing facilities in Nashville, Tennessee, to meet a goal of processing more than 60,000 test samples per day beginning in September. The company also will partner with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health to perform testing of samples from select locations with vulnerable populations with a turnaround time goal of 48 hours. For its part, Sonic Healthcare expects the new instruments will allow the firm to ramp up capacity at eight existing SARS-CoV-2 testing facilities across the U.S.
“We are committed to leveraging every possible opportunity to expand the nation’s SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity over the next several months,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, MD. “For this opportunity, we were able to match available instrumentation and reagents with commercial labs that were ready to immediately expand their services. We are honored to work with these labs and life sciences tools companies to ensure increased access to testing as may be needed this fall.”