In “Hawaii’s coronavirus testing capability to be reduced in half after mainland company cuts off supplies”, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Kristen Consillio reported yesterday that Roche Diagnostics has cut off shipments to one of Hawaii’s largest COVID-19 testing laboratories. Roche is one of the largest manufacturers of COVID-19 test supplies, and the cutoff means that Diagnostic Laboratory Services can process only 250 tests per day instead of the 800 it was doing (or the 2000 it could do if more reagents were available). The cutoff is due to huge increases in testing in Arizona, Florida, Texas and other states where the COVID-19 epidemic is raging.
As a result of the cutoff, DLS will prioritize tests, and lower-priority tests will be shipped from Hawaii to the mainland with a turnaround of up to ten days.
It’s not just Hawaii that’s being cut off. This afternoon in “San Bernardino County cancels hundreds of coronavirus test appointments, citing shortage”, the LA Times’s Colleen Shalby reported that San Bernardino county in California has had its testing capacity shrink from about 4500 to about 1800 per day, due to a reagent shortage. Testing demand has also outpaced supply in Los Angeles county. The state of California has told testing laboratories to prioritize testing for those who are symptomatic, hospitalized or living in group settings.
Nor is it just blue states. Yesterday in “Why’s It Taking So Long for Charlotteans to Get COVID-19 Results Back?”, Charlotte magazine’s Andy Smith reported that several suppliers of reagents to North Carolina testing facilities are sharply reducing deliveries to North Carolina, with shortages expected to persist through December. And in “Months Into Virus Crisis, U.S. Cities Still Lack Testing Capacity”, the NY Times’s Sarah Mervosh and Manny Fernandez reported testing shortages in cities in Arizona, Louisiana and Texas.
The Trump administration has been repeatedly asked to use the 1950 Defense Production Act to obtain reagents and other medical supplies needed help fight COVID-19. Even Republican governors have asked Trump to do so, such as Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week. However, Trump has declined, and has used the Defense Production Act only to require meatpacking plants to stay open (thus increasing COVID-19 infection rates), or to give money to defense contractors for items unrelated to COVID-19, such as ride-share space missions and naval cranes and davits.
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