The American Medical Association and other health organizations urged US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to update Covid-19 testing prioritization guidelines, as resources are still limited and many patients are still waiting over a week to receive their results.
In an open letter on Tuesday, the organizations say that they are “increasingly concerned about the serious strains” being placed on testing services and the impacts of those strains on their ability to provide medical care and contain Covid-19.
“We recommend that the Administration consider updating its testing prioritization guidelines to ensure that those with a medically-indicated need for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, such as those with COVID-19 symptoms, those with known exposures to COVID-19, and those in need of pre-procedure testing can have ready access to testing services and timely return of test results,” the letter said.
Along with significant surges in cases, there is also an increase in demand for testing of asymptomatic individuals who wish to return to activities such as going to work or returning to college.
They urged the administration to consider using new testing prioritization guidelines, as without improvement in supply availability, “we simply do not have the resources to meet the huge demand for testing by asymptomatic individuals without exposure to Covid-19.”
The letter also said that they recognize the need for a surveillance strategy, and recommend that updated testing guidelines “include a well-designed surveillance strategy that achieves public health goals while appropriately managing testing resources.”
Rapid screening tests could play a significant role in asymptomatic screening and surveillance efforts and help to reopen, the letter said.
Laboratories are struggling with supply chain shortages, access to personal protective equipment and staffing issues in many places, the organizations said. These are impacting both Covid-19 care and non Covid-19 care.
Other associations that signed the letter include The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American Society for Clinical Pathology, Association for Molecular Pathology, Association of Pathology Chairs, College of American Pathologists and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.