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Why the U.S. is still 'severely constrained' in ability to test for COVID-19

Why the U.S. is still 'severely constrained' in ability to test for COVID-19
Despite recent progress, many experts say

test

ing for COVID-19 remains far too slow and too low in the U.S. There have been more than one million

test

s done in the U.S. so far. And, today, President Trump reportedly told governors that he had not heard about any problems with

test

ing -- quote -- "for weeks." But many people with symptoms and concerns are saying something different. Here's a sample of what viewers like you told us about their experiences. KRISTINA KATAYAMA, Seattle,
why the u s is still severely constrained in ability to test for covid 19
Washington: My name is Kristina Katayama. And I live in Seattle, Washington. AARON WARNER, South Burlington, Vermont: My name is Aaron Warner. I live in South Burlington, Vermont. ALYSON HINKIE, Magnolia, Texas: My name is Alyson Hinkie. I'm from Magnolia, Texas. SUNNY LEE, Seattle, Washington: I had a shortness of breath, coughing. My fever got up to about 101.5. AARON WARNER: I started to get a lot of pressure on my chest. Kind of reminded me as if I was at the gym carrying like a heavy
ball across the gym, except it was all the time. KRISTINA KATAYAMA: I had hard-core fatigue, like deep, deep fatigue, deep into my bones, all the way out to my hair follicles. ALYSON HINKIE: I left a message with the doctor's nurse. And they called me back, asked me a few questions. And they said I didn't qualify for

test

ing because I was under the age of 65 and my fever wasn't high enough. DARRYLHI LOCKLEAR, Winter Haven, Florida: They took a long what almost looks like a Q-tip.
They told me to look up, and they put the swab down into my nose. It was actually really painful. It burned quite a bit. SUNNY LEE: I wasn't able to actually get

test

ed until three weeks after symptom onset. So, once I did actually get the

test

, it took five days to get the results. And, you know, clearly, I showed negative. MARCUS RENDON, New Braunfels, Texas: I went get

test

ed at the military hospital in San Antonio. They had it coned off in a parking lot. And they were conducting -- they
were using the nasal swabs. But, before that, when I was actually sick and we were actually really concerned, I guess because it was so early on initially, we didn't get any traction with anybody. KRISTINA KATAYAMA: I have, you know, a confirmed positive COVID

test

from my colleague who I worked with. I was told that I couldn't do

test

ing because I didn't have the right insurance. And then I was able to get ahold of one of the clinics. I was told the same thing again, which is,
sorry, you don't have the right insurance. Go home. So, needless to say, I didn't get

test

ing. I put in a lot of effort to get

test

ing. And my mom is now sick. CHRIS BYRNE, Whidbey Island, Washington: I couldn't get

test

ed. The person on the phone, who was quite nice, was saying: "I'm not saying you don't have this. It's just that we don't have enough

test

s. We have a service area of 87,000 people, and we can do 50

test

s a day." AARON WARNER: And there was a
lot of panic out there, just -- and a lot of just lack of information of what this is like. And not being able to be

test

ed really put a lot of scare into me. KRISTINA KATAYAMA: I did not think it was going to be so difficult to get

test

ing. You could have no symptoms at all and

still

be carrying and

still

be transmitting to other people who are very vulnerable and will get sick and may die. So, when you know, that information has an impact. And when you don't know, that lack of information
why the u s is still severely constrained in ability to test for covid 19
has an impact. MARCUS RENDON: I don't think I would be

test

ed now if it hadn't been for the military facility being set up, because, being a veteran, being retired, I can just show my I.D. and get on it. ALYSON HINKIE: The way that it has been communicated here, both on the local news and from the doctor's offices, is basically that, if you are my age and symptomatic, as long as you can breathe, that you are being selfish for getting a

test

, because you're basically taking a

test

away from someone that really needs it. SUNNY LEE: We have family in Korea. We were hearing from them how aggressive Korea had been. The country itself fully financially sponsored the

test

ing, the drive-through

test

ing facilities, just being super, insanely aggressive. When I think about myself and those seven days before I became symptomatic, I was on four plane rides. And I think I counted like 500-plus people that I was exposed to. JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was some important news on this
front. Abbott Laboratories just got federal approval in the last few days for a rapid-response

test

that can deliver results quickly, in between five and 13 minutes. Eventually, it hopes to ramp up so that medical clinics can do 50,000 of those

test

s a day. But we're not there yet. Let's look at this issue now with Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo. She's a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. She is an epidemiologist. She joins me now from Baltimore, Maryland. Jennifer
Nuzzo, we're getting a conflicting picture. President Trump just moments ago told the country a million

test

s have been done, 100,000 a day, other optimistic words from his administration, but then you hear from ordinary Americans like these who describe the difficulties they had getting

test

s, getting results. Where's the truth? DR. JENNIFER NUZZO, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Yes, I mean, it's

still

severely

constrained

. And it's been quite a hobbling of our
response to this pandemic that we are unable to differentiate who has this virus and who doesn't. JUDY WOODRUFF: Why is it so important right now that there be a lot of

test

s? DR. JENNIFER NUZZO: Well, right now, what we need to do is to figure out how to

test

smartly. We need to come up with a strategy for

test

ing, given the fact that our

test

ing is

still

so very

constrained

. Right now, the bottlenecks aren't so much the initial things that we have heard about before, difficulty
getting

test

s out of the labs. There are new

test

s that are coming online, but there are

still

bottlenecks upstream. So, one important bottleneck is just doctors and nurses are really busy and possibly too busy to administer

test

s to people who aren't sick enough to require hospitalization. They also don't have personal protective equipment in enough quantities to wear, so that they can safely perform the

test

s. And now there are also shortages of the chemicals and the tools they use to
why the u s is still severely constrained in ability to test for covid 19
collect the specimens for

test

ing that they would need in order to perform the

test

s. So, right now, the kind of overarching telehealth message is that we don't have the resources to

test

widely. That is the reality that we have right now. But if we are ever to get ahead of this, we are going to have to

test

more widely. And, in particular, there are certain categories of people who may not be

severely

ill, but which very much need to be

test

ed. Key is doctors and nurses, who are
potentially exposed to patients in the course of their work. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. DR. JENNIFER NUZZO: And we need to know if they're infected or not. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I was going -- you said strategy, meaning there needs to be priority, health care workers, number one. Who after that? I mean, people who start to feel bad, or what? And also the fact that it's just hard sometimes to find a place -- to get to the place where you need the

test

. I mean.. DR. JENNIFER NUZZO: Yes,
absolutely. So -- right, absolutely. There's other categories of people that I think are important. In particular, I'm very worried about long-term care facilities, because an outbreak in one of these facilities could easily overwhelm a local health system. There are sometimes thousands of very vulnerable elderly residents living in these facilities, and an outbreak in one can just tip the balance of what is demanded of a health system. So, possibly more frequent

test

ing in
those facilities would be important. And then, also, people who live at home with medically frail people, they should absolutely be able to be

test

ed if they're symptomatic, so they know how best to protect their relatives. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, President Trump just again, just moments ago, was touting the number of

test

s. He showed this new rapid

test

that we just described from Abbott Labs. But how long is it going to take for that

test

and any other

test

that's going to make a
difference to be rolled out, to actually be available in communities around the country, where it's usable? DR. JENNIFER NUZZO: Right. So it's very encouraging that a number of companies are stepping up to develop more rapid

test

s. We absolutely need that. And the fact that the Abbott

test

can be done outside of a traditional laboratory and closer to where patients are, and to be able to provide results in a relatively short time period, minutes, as opposed to now we're hearing, some
people, it goes 10 or more days before they get their

test

results. So that's clearly not workable. And having new tools, like the Abbott

test

, I think is important. That said, we

still

have some upstream bottlenecks that we need to address, like the fact that doctors or nurses or whoever is going to perform the

test

s need personal protective equipment to be able to do that safely. We

still

need to be able to have the swabs to take a specimen for these

test

s. So we need to work on all of
these issues, and not just focus on one particular

test

or one particular device. We need an overarching strategy. And then a larger problem is that states are taking very different approaches in terms of who they

test

and how many

test

s they're doing. And we have no visibility into that, which makes it very hard from a national perspective to understand how much COVID-19 is in the country and whether the situation is getting better or worse. JUDY WOODRUFF: A different approach state by
state. And, just very quickly, this is a big subject, but a lot of people want to know why the United States isn't in a better position. I know it's a complicated question, but some fingers pointed at the federal government. DR. JENNIFER NUZZO: Well, I think there were some unanticipated glitches that weren't foreseen. That said, soon as some technical problems arose, I really think that there was a lack of urgency to expand the

test

ing. And I, frankly, don't understand why that
was. But I -- you can't argue that we lost a lot of ground and time that we could have used to control cases, to the point where we have now exceeded China. JUDY WOODRUFF: It's all a lot to try to understand. Jennifer Nuzzo, we thank you very much for joining us.