March 5, 2021 — A latest lower within the variety of Americans looking for testing for COVID-19 has consultants on alert. Accurate and well timed testing stays vital for treating and isolating people with COVID-19 an infection, they stress. Widespread testing additionally permits for monitoring the unfold of the virus and any variants of concern as they come up.
“Even though it feels like maybe things are slowing down a bit with this pandemic, it still is really important to go in and be tested,” particularly for individuals who have signs according to COVID-19, Romney M. Humphries, PhD, stated throughout a media briefing Thursday sponsored by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).
“If we don’t test, we don’t know how much infection is there,” Humphries added.
Although an infection charges are a lot decrease than just a few months in the past, “they are still high,” Mary Ok Hayden, MD, stated in the course of the briefing.
Rates stay greater in some areas than they had been throughout summer time 2020, stated Hayden, IDSA fellow, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and director of the Division of Clinical Microbiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
“So we’re still seeing a good amount of infection,” Hayden stated. “I don’t think we’re at a place yet where we can really relax our overall strategies and reduce testing.”
Testing Taking Back Seat to Vaccination?
Although getting extra Americans vaccinated is nice news, COVID-19 vaccinations could possibly be taking consideration and restricted assets away from COVID-19 testing. “While the public may view vaccination as a priority right now, and it is a priority, widespread testing still is essential for infection control,” stated Humphries, IDSA member and medical director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Vaccination is supplanting testing in some public well being jurisdictions, and is partially answerable for the latest lower in testing numbers. “Public health authorities may not have the bandwidth to both do widespread testing and to do vaccinations so they’re focusing right now on vaccination,” stated Hayden.
In addition, fatigue amongst Americans experiencing a pandemic for greater than a 12 months may dissuade some people from coming in for testing. “I think a lot of people are just kind of done with the pandemic,” Hayden stated.
Initially, many asymptomatic individuals or these with delicate signs sought testing for peace of thoughts. Although it is anecdotal, “it seems now we’re seeing less of that,” Hayden stated.
Why Testing Remains Essential
With the drop in testing numbers, “are we truly seeing a reduction in cases?” Humphries requested.
Testing will assist public well being officers monitor variants of curiosity and variants of concern, in addition to gauge the success of vaccination and safety from prior an infection, she added.
The message stays that individuals with signs according to COVID-19 ought to search testing. On a person stage, an correct and immediate prognosis can promote acceptable remedy and assist defend shut contacts.
On a societal stage, testing is essentially the most correct strategy to decide how a lot coronavirus is circulating in a given group, to regulate quarantine necessities and to get assets to areas with an outbreak.
In addition, Hayden stated, somebody who checks constructive is perhaps a part of an essential chain of transmission. In this case, public well being division officers can provoke contact tracing to curb additional transmission.
“Beyond diagnosis, testing is an important tool to help us enroll people in therapeutic clinical trials,” Humphries stated.
A continued emphasis on COVID-19 may additionally assist reply remaining questions: How many individuals beforehand contaminated with COVID-19 are subsequently testing constructive? And if they’re, is the brand new an infection the identical or a variant?
At-Home Testing: Convenience with Caveats
Quite a lot of at-home checks for coronavirus an infection out there beneath FDA emergency use authorization may assist broaden testing numbers. A wide range of out there testing strategies will assist “really get a lot of testing done,” Hayden stated.
Even although some knowledge recommend point-of-care testing is “is not as sensitive as some of the in-lab tests that we can do, but again there may be other advantages that outweigh those,” she added. Greater comfort and testing of people that in any other case won’t go to a public testing web site are examples.
Unlike federal and state testing websites that routinely report constructive check numbers, some at-home checks report findings via a smartphone app, whereas others don’t. Therefore, some constructive circumstances detected at residence may stay uncounted, a priority that might develop with rising use of at-home checks.
“We want to be able to address the results of that test,” Hayden stated. Linking at-home check outcomes to a well being care supplier may promote counseling of individuals primarily based on their outcomes.
At-home testing additionally may preclude genomic sequencing of samples to detect and monitor virus variants. Commercial and state laboratories typically have ample pattern remaining after testing to additional check for variants of curiosity.
“The reality is that getting those samples from people who tested positive at home is pretty improbable,” Humphries stated.
On the plus facet, Hayden identified that though sequencing of samples for variants stays essential, each pattern would not must be sequenced to trace the unfold of latest variants.
The Cost of Convenience?
Out-of-pocket prices of $25 or extra for at-home checks could possibly be a barrier for some individuals, the consultants agreed. “I do think price point is a challenge. Realistically getting that price point down to a very low level is going to be a difficult challenge,” Humphries stated.
“The populations that are impacted the most severely by COVID-19 are those that would be least able to afford that kind of price point from at-home testing perspective,” she added.
Even if COVID-19 testing was extra widespread and accessible, Humphries stated different issues stay. “One of the challenges that we’re faced with is that there’s been a lot of movement away from some of the really important control strategies that have been used to mitigate this pandemic.” Areas which are opening public areas to full capability or eliminating masks mandates, for instance, are “creating a way, I feel, for the general public that the pandemic is over.
“And by no means is that true,” she added.