National testing strategy needed now

The U.S. now has more than one million Covid-19 cases, eclipsing the number of cases in Spain, Italy, France, United Kingdom, and Germany combined. And, despite more than 5 million tests having been conducted so far, testing is still an issue. This is especially worrisome if the pandemic ramps up again in the Fall. Expressing its concerns, the AMA wrote a letter to Adm. Brett P. Giroir, MD, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, urging stronger leadership at the federal level to guide the country through this crisis now and into the future.

“As we anticipate the threat of Covid-19 may persist into the Fall, the coming months represent a critical time for federal leadership to help ensure states are adequately resourced and prepared with critical strategies to manage what may be increased demand for testing services,” wrote AMA CEO and EVP James L. Madara, MD. “The current outbreak has taught us what can occur if adequate diagnostic testing is not available in the early stages of a rapidly emerging and serious public health threat. We need continued focus on preparation to ensure widespread access to critical diagnostic testing services is available to meet both current needs and future needs for any potential surge in cases coinciding with the next influenza season. Federal guidance and leadership as we move through new phases of this global pandemic will be critical to the rapid identification and management of new cases as we work together to eliminate this global threat.”

The physicians group laid out several recommendations:

  • There should be a national strategy for testing: The AMA cited the inconsistencies and lack of guidance around procurement and distribution of testing kits and supplies. “…[The AMA believes there is additional opportunity to provide greater clarity and transparency around existing testing capacity and where that capacity is located to help states best manage local and regional resources, as well as provide strong federal guidance on how best to do so.”
  • The federal government should consult with the laboratory community experts: Noting that labs have met with significant obstacles in securing testing and supplies with little explanation from the administration, the AMA said that the administration needs to understand “the significant challenges [the labs] are facing and work closely with them to mitigate these challenges as best possible. The AMA therefore strongly recommends the Administration receive regular input from members of the hospital and academic laboratory community, which the AMA would be pleased to help facilitate.”
  • Fix supply chain issues: The AMA cited issues beyond testing, such as adequate PPE and the need for a “robust workforce,” and they strongly recommended the administration consider the actions needed to resolve these issues.
  • Ensure that physicians and the public understand serological testing: The AMA noted that there should be educational materials around antibody testing. “[T]he AMA recommends that these tests be limited to use in epidemiological/population-level study or by physicians and laboratorians trained in interpretation of serological tests and with strong understanding of the limitations of the result… The AMA strongly recommends that the administration issue further guidance to physicians and the public about the performance and limitations of these tests, including false positives.”

Candace Hoffmann, Managing Editor, BreakingMED™

Cat ID: 125

Topic ID: 79,125,254,930,500,791,932,570,574,125,190,520,926,192,927,150,928,925,934