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United States could be exposed due to a decline in demand for COVID-19 tests.

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United States could be exposed due to a decline in demand for COVID-19 tests.

 

Los Angeles County was performing over 350,000 weekly coronavirus tests just five weeks ago, including at a huge drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium, as health workers worked to contain the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the United States.

County officials now say that research is on the verge of failing. Over 180 government-supported sites are still running at a third of their ability.

Dr. Clemens Hong, who heads the county’s research service, said, “It’s surprising how quickly we’ve gone from traveling at 100 miles per hour to around 25 miles per hour.”

Communities around the country are seeing plummeting demand, shuttering testing sites, and even attempting to return supplies after a year of failing to expand testing.

The reduction in screening comes at a crucial time in the outbreak: experts are cautiously hopeful that COVID-19 is receding after killing over 500,000 people in the United States, but they are worried that emerging variants could prolong the outbreak.

“Everyone is hoping for rapid, widespread vaccinations, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” Hong said. “We actually don’t have enough resistant people to rule out another surge.”

Testing in the United States peaked on Jan. 15, with the nation averaging over 2 million tests a day. The total number of daily tests has decreased by more than 28% since then. Since January, all major virus interventions, including new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, have decreased.

Such encouraging patterns, officials claim, are sapping interest in research, along with harsh winter weather, the end of the holiday travel season, pandemic exhaustion, and an increasing focus on vaccinations.

“When you put all of those together, you get this decrease,” said Dr. Richard Pescatore of the Delaware Department of Health, where regular testing has decreased by more than 40% since January’s height. “People are obviously not going to research sites.”

However, monitoring is still necessary to monitor and contain the outbreak.

To make testing more accessible, L.A. County is expanding testing options near public transit, schools, and offices. Santa Clara County officials are asking people to “continue getting tested on a daily basis,” referring to new mobile testing buses and pop-up sites.

President Joe Biden has vowed to spend billions more in supplies and government coordination to overhaul the nation’s testing framework. However, with demand rapidly decreasing, the nation could soon face a surplus of unsold supplies. According to Arizona State University researchers, the United States will be able to perform nearly 1 billion monthly tests by June. That’s more than 25 times the country’s current monthly test reporting figure of about 40 million.

With more than 150 million new vaccine doses projected to arrive by late March, research is likely to decrease even more as local governments commit more personnel and money to administering vaccines.

Dr. Jeffrey Engel of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists said, “You have to pick your battles here.” “Everyone acknowledges that if you only have one public health nurse, you can use her for vaccines rather than testing.”

Some experts suggest the country needs to scale up monitoring to prevent outbreaks of coronavirus variants that have spread to the United Kingdom, South Africa, and other areas.

Dr. Jonathan Quick of the Rockefeller Foundation, which has been advising Biden officials, said, “We need to use monitoring to continue the downward trend.” “We need it to capture variant surges,” says the researcher.
Full Coverage: Pandemic of Coronavirus

As more students return to the classroom this week, Minnesota started encouraging families to get checked every two weeks before the end of the school year.

“We need to use all of the resources at our disposal to protect this progress,” said Dan Huff, an assistant state health commissioner.

However, some of the most outspoken supporters of research remain unconcerned about the drop of screening. Testing is useful in terms of public health as it assists in rapidly detecting infectious individuals, tracing their connections, and isolating them to avoid the spread of disease. That never occurred in most parts of the United States.

Many Americans had to wait days for test results during the holiday season, making them largely useless. According to Harvard University’s Dr. Michael Mina, this has culminated in research exhaustion and waning interest.

Mina said, “It doesn’t exactly give you a lot of gratifying, immediate reviews.” “As a result, people’s willingness or interest in being tested continues to decline.”

Despite this, test manufacturers in the United States continue to ramp up production, with another 110 million rapid and home-based tests scheduled to reach the market next month.

As in-person classes resume, government officials have long expected that this growing arsenal of low-cost, 15-minute assessments will be used to screen millions of students and teachers on a regular basis. However, recent CDC guidelines downplay testing, identifying it as a “additional layer” of security behind simple measures like masking and social distancing.

Even without strong federal funding, educational leaders say testing programs would be crucial in restoring public trust and enabling schools to completely reopen, particularly in the fall when cases are expected to rise again.

“Schools have legitimately asked themselves, ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze to set up a massive research effort?’” said Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Reform, a nonprofit that advises districts in over 25 states. “Our message to the school districts we work with is, ‘Yes, you should set up rigorous testing because you will need it.’”

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