As demand surges in the U.S., counties reopen virus testing sites.
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads in the United States, some counties are reopening community testing sites they closed last spring, as the number of cases fell and attention shifted to vaccination.
The demand for testing has increased over the past month. At the end of July, an average of nearly 900,000 coronavirus tests were carried out daily, up from 500,000 to 600,000 per day at the beginning of the month, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Several factors are likely responsible for the increase, including the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, as well as new mandates that require unvaccinated people to undergo frequent testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently changed their guidelines for those vaccinated, recommending that they be tested if they are exposed to the virus, even if they have no symptoms.
Testing has been a hot spot for the United States since the start of the pandemic. A faulty test, regulatory red tape and supply shortages initially led to queues of several hours at test sites and days of waiting for results.
Officials eventually ironed out some of those issues, and when infections soared last year, government-run mass testing sites offering free virus testing to all comers sprang up across the board. the country. However, some delays and problems persisted even as capacity increased.
When vaccines were cleared, many large test sites were converted to vaccination sites, and some were shut down completely. Testing for viruses has moved largely to the private sector – to local pharmacies and commercial labs, for example.
“There are a lot less testing sites, public testing sites, than there were six months ago,” said Mara Aspinall, biomedical diagnostic expert at Arizona State University. “So for me that’s a concern. “
After residents began reporting a three-day wait for testing appointments at pharmacies in Hillsborough County, Florida, the county opened two free walk-in testing sites last weekend. Officials had planned to administer about 500 tests a day at each site and ended up performing almost double, said Kevin Watler, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health.
“It was very, very busy,” he said. “So the demand is definitely there. “
Many more test sites are popping up in Florida, where the virus is booming, as well as across the country. In California, San Diego County added five new test sites last week after increased traffic to its existing sites, officials said.
Other localities are extending hours at testing sites or deploying pop-up testing clinics, and some are combining their testing and vaccination services. Last week, the Delaware Division of Public Health announced it would begin offering testing at its vaccination sites, and a new drive-thru testing and vaccination site opened in New Orleans.
“As we experience the fourth and most severe wave of Covid-19 in Louisiana, we need to take a multi-pronged approach to tackling the virus,” said Dr Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Health Department. -Orléans, in a press release. “Masking slows the spread, tests identify pandemic cases and trends, and vaccines prevent hospitalizations and deaths. It makes sense to co-locate these resources so residents can access the tools they need to stay safe in one stop. “
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