VIRUS TEST­ING IN U.S. DROPS, EVEN AS DEATHS MOUNT

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION | WORLD | BUSINESS -

U.S. test­ing for the coro­n­avirus is drop­ping even as in­fec­tions re­main high and the death toll rises by more than 1,000 a day, a wor­ri­some trend that of­fi­cials at­tribute largely to Amer­i­cans get­ting dis­cour­aged over hav­ing to wait hours to get a test and days or weeks to learn the re­sults.

An As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis found that the num­ber of tests per day slid 3.6% over the past two weeks to 750,000, with the count fall­ing in 22 states. That in­cludes places like Alabama, Mis­sis­sippi, Mis­souri and Iowa where the per­cent­age of pos­i­tive tests is high and con­tin­u­ing to climb, an in­di­ca­tor that the virus is still spread­ing un­con­trolled.

Amid the cri­sis, some health ex­perts are call­ing for the in­tro­duc­tion of a dif­fer­ent type of test that would yield re­sults in a mat­ter of min­utes and would be cheap and sim­ple enough for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to test them­selves — but would also be less ac­cu­rate.

“There’s a sense of des­per­a­tion that we need to do some­thing else,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, di­rec­tor of Har­vard’s Global Health In­sti­tute.

Wide­spread test­ing is con­sid­ered es­sen­tial to man­ag­ing the out­break as the U.S. ap­proaches a mam­moth 5 mil­lion con­firmed in­fec­tions and more than 157,000 deaths out of over 700,000 world­wide.

U.S. test­ing is built pri­mar­ily on highly sen­si­tive molec­u­lar tests that de­tect the ge­netic code of the coro­n­avirus. Although the test is con­sid­ered the gold stan­dard for ac­cu­racy, ex­perts in­creas­ingly say the coun­try’s over­bur­dened lab sys­tem is in­ca­pable of keeping pace with the out­break and pro­duc­ing re­sults within two or three days, the time frame cru­cial to iso­lat­ing pa­tients and con­tain­ing the virus.

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