WSJ article on rationing of COVID tests draws ire of lab specialists

By staff writers

January 10, 2022 -- An article in the Wall Street Journal claiming that clinical labs in the U.S. are limiting who has access to COVID-19 tests has drawn criticism from lab specialists who say it oversimplifies what's going on as cases rise due to the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant.

The article claims that labs are rationing access to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to ensure access for patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have other health concerns have access to a test and are able to quarantine or get treatment quickly. The WSJ noted that labs are starting to report challenges in obtaining testing materials, such as reagents and swabs, because of the recent increase in testing demand.

Finally, the article noted that some laboratories, including Labcorp, reported test turnaround times of one to two days, while Quest Diagnostics reported a turnaround time of two to three days, up from a day.

What's more, positivity rates for tests are at rates between 25% to 40%. This is making it impossible to use test pooling, which can enable labs to increase throughput by running a single test on multiple individuals at once, and is only allowing labs to follow up on batches that have positive results.

The story claimed the steps could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 if infected people are going untested and return to the community without knowing whether or not they have the disease.

But a number of clinical lab specialists took issue with the article, including one commenter on Twitter who said the story mischaracterizes how sample pooling works.

Testing is 1 of 3 steps to achieve a 'new normal' with COVID-19
How can the U.S. learn to live with COVID-19? Better diagnostic testing is one of three steps that need to happen to achieve a "new normal," a state characterized...
COVID-19 tests drove increase in Medicare spending in 2020
Spending on COVID-19 diagnostic tests drove an increase in Medicare Part B spending in 2020, while spending for non-COVID-19 lab tests saw a "sharp decline"...
FDA authorizes 2 COVID at-home tests
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorizations to two additional COVID-19 at-home tests: the Siemens' CliniTest...
COVID-19 plays central role in LabPulse's top 10 stories for 2021
For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic dominated's top 10 stories of the year, based on member views. Eight of the...

Copyright © 2022

Last Updated bc 1/11/2022 7:32:56 AM

Subscribe Today
Do you want to be a Microbiology Insider?

When LabPulse gets hot new information, our Insiders are the first to find out. Stay current in today's competitive market by receiving our exclusive free email updates.

Yes, Keep Me Current