Laboratories across the U.S. are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are actually undercutting the pandemic response.
With the U.S. tally of infections at 3.9 million Wednesday and new cases surging, the bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out and for the labs themselves, dealing with a crushing workload.
Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results, exacerbating fears that asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus if they don’t isolate while they wait.
“There’s been this obsession with, ‘How many tests are we doing per day?'” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The question is how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned.”
Meanwhile, only about 1 in 10 Americans think daycare centers, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. Most think mask requirements and other safety measures are necessary to restart in-person instruction, and roughly 3 in 10 say that teaching kids in classrooms shouldn’t happen at all.
The findings are a sharp contrast to the picture that President Donald Trump paints as he pressures schools to reopen. The Republican president claims to have wide support for a full reopening, arguing that Democrats oppose it for political reasons.
Few schools, however, plan to return to business as usual. Many of the nation’s largest school districts have announced that they’ll be entirely virtual in the fall or use a hybrid model that has children in classrooms only a couple of days a week.
In other developments:
- Despite deep Republican divisions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed ahead toward a COVID-19 aid package with the White House as Democrats warned the GOP is delaying needed relief to Americans during the crisis. Key GOP senators revolted over the emerging $1 trillion effort as the price tag could quickly swell. But pressure is mounting as the virus crisis deepens and a $600 weekly unemployment boost and a federal eviction moratorium come to an end starting Friday.
- California has surpassed New York for the most coronavirus cases in the country, reporting more than 409,000 infections after setting a record on Tuesday for the state's most confirmed new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
- Researchers have exposed the frightening likelihood of silent spread of the virus by asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers. But how major a role seemingly healthy people play in swelling the ranks of those infected remains unanswered — and at the top of the scientific agenda.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that the U.S. has signed a contract with Pfizer for delivery in December of the first 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is working to develop.
- The NCAA football oversight committee is asking the association’s Board of Governors to avoid making a decision later this week on whether to conduct fall championships as college sports tries to find a path to play through the pandemic.
- The state of Pennsylvania won't allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials announced Wednesday, becoming the latest jurisdiction to say no to the team as the baseball season begins this week.
- The Indianapolis 500 will limit fan attendance, implement strict testing, social distancing and mask requirements, and lift the local broadcast blackout for just the second time in nearly seven decades when the postponed race is run next month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.