`A hot mess': Americans face testing delays as virus surges

Shania Dod, right, collects a sample at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

For two weeks, Rachael Jones has stayed home, going without a paycheck while waiting and waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test from a pharmacy near Philadelphia.

"I'm just so disappointed. I just don't know how -- with the resources and the people we have and the money we have -- we can't get this right," she said.

Four months, 3 million confirmed infections and over 130,000 deaths into the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Americans confronted with a resurgence of the scourge are facing long lines at testing sites in the summer heat or are getting turned away. Others are going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis.

Some sites are running out of kits, while labs are reporting shortages of materials and workers to process the swabs.

Some frustrated Americans are left to wonder why the U.S. can't seem to get its act together, especially after it was given fair warning as the virus wreaked havoc in China and then Italy, Spain and New York.

"It's a hot mess," said 47-year-old Jennifer Hudson of Tucson, Arizona. "The fact that we're relying on companies and we don't have a national response to this, it's ridiculous. … It's keeping people who need tests from getting tests."

It took Hudson five days to make an appointment through a CVS pharmacy near her home. She booked a drive-up test over the weekend, more than a week after her symptoms — fatigue, shortness of breath, headache and sore throat — first emerged. The clinic informed her that her results would probably be delayed.

Testing has been ramped up in the U.S., reaching about 640,000 tests per day on average, an increase from around 518,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis. Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. are running at over 50,000, breaking records at practically every turn.

More testing tends to lead to more cases found. But in an alarming indicator, the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country, hitting almost 27% in Arizona, 19% in Florida and 17% in South Carolina.

While the U.S. has conducted more tests than any other nation, it ranks in the middle of the pack in testing per capita, behind Russia, Spain and Australia, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Testing alone without adequate contact tracing and quarantine measures won't control the spread of the scourge, according to health experts. But they say delays in testing can lead to more infections by leaving people in the dark as to whether they need to isolate themselves.

Thailand, South Korea and Norway, among other countries, have controlled the virus more effectively while conducting fewer tests per capita than the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins.

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