ACLA Statement on COVID-19 Testing Capacity and Turnaround Time

January 12, 2022 Categories: ACLA News, ACLA Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge across the country amid the current Omicron wave, ACLA issued the following statement:

“Since the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, ACLA member labs have been leading the way in developing, scaling and performing PCR COVID-19 tests and have performed upwards of 175 million tests since then. While we once again are facing a surge in cases and an uptick in demand for tests nationwide, ACLA members continue to prioritize expanding testing capacity to ensure that anyone who needs a test is able to get one – when they need to. 

In contrast to some of the industry-wide issues that were present in the early days of the pandemic, labs are now facing a wave of new issues brought on by a fast-spreading variant that has not spared the laboratory care work force. We are seeing at an industry level that staffing is a significant factor in determining overall capacity. Though individual labs can best speak to the specific issues they’re experiencing, ACLA members have reported the following issues factoring into overall capacity and turnaround time:

  • Hiring additional and/or temporary workers takes time and training and is occurring in an environment with competition among other health care sectors also experiencing workforce strain.
  • Some laboratory staff and capacity needs to be retained for critical non-COVID testing such as newborn screening and women’s health.
  • COVID-19 infections have increased laboratory staff sick leave.

Additionally, while testing supplies are currently stable, a sustained increase in demand for testing could lead to shortages, particularly in consumables such as specimen collection tubes and pipette tips. 

The ongoing surge in demand for tests can lead to an increase in average times to deliver results. ACLA continues to coordinate with members to monitor the situation and ensure both COVID-19 and routine testing is not disrupted. Additionally, we continue to engage the White House COVID-19 Task Force and the Biden Administration more broadly on the challenges identified above to ensure our members can maintain capacity and supplies, and so that the American people can continue to have access to timely and reliable tests. 

Testing remains a vital facet of our pandemic response, including the broad range of testing methods, such as at-home specimen collection kits, specimen pooling, multiplex testing and novel RNA extraction methods. But testing alone is not going to stop the spread of the virus. We encourage all communities to heed the advice of public health officials, such as getting vaccinated, practicing social distancing and wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces or in areas of substantial or high transmission.”

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The American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) is the national trade association representing leading laboratories that deliver essential diagnostic health information to patients and providers. ACLA members are at the forefront of driving diagnostic innovation to meet the country’s evolving health care needs and provide vital clinical laboratory tests that identify and prevent infectious, acute and chronic disease. ACLA works to advance the next generation of health care delivery through policies that expand access to lifesaving testing services.

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