US lab worker shortage biggest obstacle to more COVID-19 testing, experts say

A shortage of lab workers to process diagnostic tests is the biggest obstacle to the U.S. increasing its testing capacity, experts told The New York Times. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 193 million tests for COVID-19 have been processed across the U.S., but millions more are needed to detect and contain the virus. 

PCR tests, the gold standard in diagnostics, require lab workers to handle test tubes, watch testing machines and analyze test results. Lab workers are dealing with burnout and repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, from spending long hours processing testing samples, and several scientists have told the Times that they're struggling to fill vacancies in their labs after workers quit.  

"Doctors and nurses are very visible, but we work behind the scenes," Marissa Larson, a medical laboratory scientist supervisor at the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, told the Times. "And we are underwater."

Lab workers have to complete testing for other things, such as sexually transmitted infections, on top of COVID-19 testing. As some labs have had to move to 24/7 testing, malfunctions and breakdowns of testing machines have become more common, since they're not built to run continuously for months on end, the Times reported. 

Read the full article here.


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