Labs ration access to COVID-19 tests amid surge

The increasing demand for COVID-19 testing is prompting some labs across the U.S. to ration access and prioritize patients presenting symptoms or other health concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 10.

The move comes as the U.S. reports record COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

Some testing materials are more readily available than others, but some labs have started to report challenges in getting materials because of increased demand. Many mass-testing sites were also closed or converted into vaccination sites within the past year. Fewer locations and staff for collecting samples have contributed to hours-long lines and limited testing appointments nationwide.

While over-the-counter, at-home tests have helped ease pressure on laboratories, they have been in short supply. Indiana officials were forced to limit eligibility to residents under 18 or symptomatic adults 50 and over as a result.

Geoffrey Baird, MD, PhD, the University of Washington Medicine’s acting chair of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, told reporters during a Dec. 30 press conference the proportion of results coming back positive is too high to take advantage of a resource-saving technique employed called pooling, which uses a single test on multiple patient samples at once. 

"There are a finite number of people who do laboratory testing," Emily Volk, MD, president of the College of American Pathologists, told The Wall Street Journal. "It’s not an endless resource." 


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