Queues of cars have been forming outside testing sites run by states, counties, health care systems and pharmacies in numerous cities in recent days, including in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.
“I think it’s a combination of holidays coming up, but also just the uptick in the (infection) numbers out there,” the hospital’s Dr. George Kondylis told WBZ.
“I tried five different places before I got in this line, and none of them had any open spots or appointments,” Pun told WBTS.
In the town of Saugus north of Boston, cars snaked around a testing site at a mall Tuesday night, and some people waited more than two hours, WBZ reported.
“I could not believe it when it was zig-zagging five times just to get through,” Travis Morrow told WBZ about that line.
Wait times went up to 90 minutes even for those with appointments, he said.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said the pre-holiday scramble for tests is laying bare the nation’s limited testing capacity and lack of a national testing strategy.
“I think we should just acknowledge: We don’t have enough tests, our infrastructure is not working very well. And then get to fixing it, as opposed to denying it or downplaying it.” Jha said. “From the beginning of this pandemic the entire administration has not taken testing seriously enough and we are paying the price of that.”
Labs warn of slower testing and supply challenges
The average number of new daily cases across a week rose above 165,000 Thursday — the highest ever recorded, and nearly five times the average seen in mid-September, when it was at a post-summer-surge low, Johns Hopkins University data show.
Clinical labs already are “facing delays or cancellations on orders for critical supplies, such as pipette tips,” Khani said. Increases in wait times for test results would result, she said.
The ACLA represents lab companies such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics.
Quest’s statement included an “appeal to personal responsibility,” calling on Americans to follow the CDC’s guidance on wearing masks and social distancing.
“We are committed to doing everything in our power” to meet demand, but “we can’t do it alone,” the company said. By following CDC guidelines, “each of us can help to reduce the spread of Covid-19, improve testing and patient care, and potentially save lives.”
In a briefing with reporters this week, Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing czar, said labs were generally in good shape, and that the administration was “aggressively helping states in any way that we that we can.”
On Friday, he released a statement saying the government is closely monitoring turnaround times at ACLA labs, which he said were averaging just under two days.
“No one, and especially me and my team, is downplaying any aspect of the pandemic response, and anyone making that erroneous assertion is uninformed,” Giroir said. “The most significant issue driving the pandemic at the moment is lack of adherence to mitigation basics: mask wearing, washing hands and maintaining distance.”
Some city-run sites ask Thanksgiving travelers to stay away
For those who buck recommendations not to travel or gather with other households for Thanksgiving, health officials have offered different shades of advice on whether and how these travelers should get tested.
The city’s sites are testing nearly 6,000 people daily, and results on average take 24 to 48 hours, the center said.
“If people need tests for any other reason — like travel or visiting — they need to go to their private provider,” the email reads.
The city’s health director, Dr. Grant Colfax, went further this week, discouraging any Thanksgiving visits and pre-travel testing, regardless of where that testing comes from.
“Please do not use testing to determine whether you can travel or not,” Colfax said. “A negative test cannot be an excuse to put yourself or others at risk.”
The tone is different in nearby Contra Costa County. Though health officials there want people to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings, they say they suspect people will ignore those warnings.
“Unfortunately, a lot of these tests people are doing for holiday planning may come at the expense of people that need a test because they have symptoms or known exposure,” Wallace, the testing coordinator, told KIRO.
Experts: Tests shouldn’t make people feel comfortable for Thanksgiving visits
Health experts stress a negative test result will not guarantee a person isn’t carrying the virus to a Thanksgiving gathering, because a test won’t necessarily pick up on fresh infections. An already-infected person could test negative, travel to a dinner days later and then spread the disease.
CNN’s Curt Devine, Holly Yan, Maggie Fox, Kara Devlin, Sara Murray, Kelly Christ and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.