The Trump administration says more than 120 million tests will be available nationwide in October. But far fewer Americans are actually tested: only about 1 million a day, less than 30 million a month.
“I think people are confused. They do not know what to do, whether to take a test. I think there were messages too – do not let yourself be tested unless you really need it because you take a test from someone else, “said Fred Turner, CEO of Curative, one of the nation’s best COVID testing firms. “The country now has more test capacity.”
After a slow start, a growing number of Americans are swirling their cheeks every day, tickling their throats and throwing white cotton swabs into their nostrils in search of the virus.
Soon, experts say it might be possible to do so easily and cheaply in the privacy of your own home.
“We’re getting to the point that there may be some candidates,” said Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s test tsar for COVID testing at home. “I think we’ll get there. We’re not there yet.”
So far, public health officials and laboratory firms need more people to provide samples.
Guidelines for changing centers for disease control and prevention of who should be tested and when has caused confusion, experts say, along with President Donald Trump’s comment over the summer, that he asked senior officials to “lower testing, thank you.”
Prolonged treatment delays in some areas in the late summer months are also said to have reinforced the impression that not everyone who wants to be tested could be tested.
“We definitely want people to be tested,” Giroir said.
“If you are symptomatic, you need to be tested. If you have been in close contact with someone who is known to have the disease, you need to be tested,” Gioir told ABC News Live. “We have to get many individuals tested routinely who are asymptomatic with no known exposure. We call it monitoring testing.”
ABC News got an exclusive look into Curative’s lab in Washington, DC, where more than 350 lab technicians and medical experts work around the clock to process more than 40,000 tests a day.
“We also have extra capacity. So all of this is designed to have upscaling capacity for 100,000 samples a day,” Turner said. The company handles almost 10% of the country’s daily coronavirus tests.
Approximately 40% of people infected with COVID-19 do not have symptoms according to the CDC. Capturing many of these cases through a much more aggressive test regime can help the country return to normal activities more quickly – especially if these tests can be performed regularly at home, some experts say.
“If we give everyone the knowledge of their own status, if people know the day they start to be transferable that they are positive, then we can get enough people to choose not to go to work that day, not to go to school. that day, but to stay home, “said Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and testing expert at Harvard University School of Public Health.
Mina has been a leading advocate for making COVID testing as routine as brushing teeth or putting contact lenses in. He says cheap paper strip tests that are still under development would not require a lab and would yield results in minutes instead. for days.
“I think we can have these tests, have them available for very private use, if that’s what is required, because we know a lot of people do not want to participate in these larger systems for various reasons,” told My ABC News.
Home design companies like Massachusetts-based e25Bio told ABC News that they are capable of producing millions of tests a day and could have them widely available right away.
“We should probably do something like 20 million tests a day if we want to use these tests as a tool to stop transmission,” said Mina, who estimated that outbreaks could be brought under control within a month if such a test program were started immediately. .
The federal government is not sold on the idea. The Food and Drug Administration is concerned about the accuracy and sensitivity of the paper strip tests. There is also concern that the test’s higher degree of false negatives could create a false sense of security. Applications for rollout of the samples are under review.
In August, the FDA approved the first rapid, non-laboratory COVID test: $ 5 short-term tests performed by Abbott – which requires a doctor to monitor – yield results in 15 minutes.
The government bought 150 million of the Abbott card tests in September and is now sending them to critical hotspots, nursing homes and historic black colleges and universities, such as the University of District of Columbia, which received 7,000.
“I think these quick test kits will be very, very important and a great tool for us as we start thinking about bringing more and more people back to campus,” said Alex Bako, director of risk management at UDC.
A majority of Americans – 82% in a recent Gallup poll – said they believe widespread testing is important for returning to normal activities.
Five months ago, nearly 60% said they were concerned about the lack of available COVID tests, but now only 25% are concerned, according to Gallup.
Drive-in and walk-up test sites are ubiquitous in most major U.S. cities and in the 38 states that report an increase in the number of cases, according to data from the COVID-19 Tracking Project. In Texas, Curative is rolling out mobile test kiosks.
Health centers and pharmacies are increasingly offering tests to anyone at low or no cost, including those without a doctor’s appointment. And airports are offering tests to passengers: Tampa International Airport in Florida became the first nationwide this month for all arriving and departing passengers.
“Sample collection in the field is the bottleneck right now, not the lab processes themselves,” Turner said. The gold standard PCR test, which is how most coronavirus samples are screened, is laborious and time consuming, but very accurate.
The White House, one of the most tested corners in America, became a super-spreading spot in recent weeks. “I think we all know that even the best places that have tested everyone have seen outbreaks,” Giroir said.
“Tests can be useful, but you can not trust tests, because if you are negative one day, you can be positive the next day or the next day. And then you can not trust it as a kind of your card to say it is OK to meet, “Giroir said.” I would not risk my family’s life, my mother’s life, on it. “