As the Centers for Disease Control and the Trump administration face increasing criticism for the slow rollout and lack of testing for the coronavirus and the respiratory illness it causes, COVID-19, private companies are stepping in.
LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, two major medical diagnostics companies, have developed COVID-19 tests and are increasing test availability, their spokespeople told Adweek. Testing is now available throughout the U.S., they added.
LabCorp said its test became available last week, on March 5, while Quest said it introduced its test on Monday, March 9.
Both clinical diagnostic providers, however, noted that the tests can only be ordered and the specimens collected by physicians and other healthcare providers, and then sent to LabCorp and Quest’s respective labs for evaluation.
LabCorp said it began testing specimens last Friday and is now able to perform thousands of tests per day. The diagnostics provider is adding new equipment and staff to create additional capacity, it added.
“LabCorp continues to perform its 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) test and to increase test capacity for patients who should be tested,” said a spokesperson for LabCorp. “We are working closely with the CDC, FDA and others on a swift response to address this public health crisis.”
Quest, meanwhile, expects to be able to perform tens of thousands of tests per week within the next six weeks. “We are also scaling capacity now with the aim to validate and perform testing at other Quest Diagnostics high-complexity laboratories serving the United States,” a spokesperson for Quest explained.
When it comes to doing the testing, both companies have instructed patients not to go directly to one of their diagnostic clinics for testing. They also communicated to healthcare providers not to send patients suspected of being infected to their clinics.
Meanwhile, states such as New York are taking the charge to ensure testing is available. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that the state is contracting with 28 private labs that already work with its Department of Health to increase capacity for detecting coronavirus infections.
Questions remain over the availability of coronavirus tests. FactCheck.org, which is supported in part by the Annenberg Foundation, said it was told by the Association of Public Health Laboratories on March 9 that although more tests are being made available, the demand for testing is greater than the available kits. That contradicts claims made by President Donald Trump and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on March 6 that there was no testing kit shortage.
Last week, LabCorp said it met with colleagues from the American Clinical Laboratory Association and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as members of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force.
“As an industry, clinical labs have taken steps to meet the growing demand for national testing and are part of a newly formed consortium working together with the administration, the CDC and FDA, as well as state and local public health labs, hospitals and academic medical centers,” the company said in a statement.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment by press time.