States begin to limit coronavirus testing as turnaround times slow

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Several states are rethinking their COVID-19 testing strategies, limiting tests while overburdened diagnostic laboratories catch up with backlogs of up to two weeks, according to a new report. 

As it stands, tests aren’t being turned around quickly enough to ask infected people to quarantine and or to trace their contacts, reported Stateline. Among the states that have changed their policies: 

  • Alabama: The state is discouraging testing in most cases. Even when people think they have been exposed, they should self-quarantine for 14 days, said Karen Landers, M.D., Alabama’s assistant state health officer. “We need to use our statewide testing resources wisely and only test people who have appropriate reasons to be tested,” she told the state policy news outlet. “That’s a limited prescription, but that’s all I have right now.”
  • California: State Secretary of Health Mark Ghaly, M.D., in mid-July said California would prioritize hospitalized and other vulnerable populations until turnaround times speed up.
  • Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia also are beginning to prioritize test-takers.

Meanwhile, a growing group of states that have banded together to buy millions of quick-turnaround test kits don’t expect the kits to arrive for at least a month.

“If enough tests were available and results weren’t delayed as they are now, Landers and other health officials would insist on testing at least twice as many people as they’re testing now,” wrote Stateline’s Christine Vestal. But that’s no longer a realistic scenario, she concluded.

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