Fauci “cautiously optimistic” US could have safe and effective vaccine in late fall or early winter

The Trump administration official overseeing critical coronavirus testing is expected to be pressed this morning on why turnaround times are still too long in the United States.

During CNN’s coronavirus town hall yesterday, Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said testing is improving but not as good as he wants it to be.

“It shouldn’t be acceptable,” he said, that the United States is so backlogged on coronavirus testing.

He tried to defend the state of testing in the US after large testing companies such as Quest Diagnostics reported it can take seven days or more to run tests and get results back to people.

“Nationally, about 25% of tests are point-of-care so that’s about 15 minutes. Another 25% are done in local hospitals … That’s generally a quick turnaround,” Giroir said.

But he conceded there is a backlog that’s rendering some coronavirus testing practically useless.

“Where we really talk about it is the big commercial labs and there’s no question they’ve been strained, and Quest has been strained more than the other commercial labs,” he said.

“Our data right now, and this is the worst week, is that 56%, are back within three days, 76% are back within five days,” he added.

Pooling samples from four or five people can speed things up and save resources, Giroir said.

“I’ve said and I’ve said before — I want the perfect test. I want it to be perfectly sensitive and specific and back within 15 minutes. That’s why we’re really working towards more point-of-care but again it is a work in progress, because of the tremendous demand,” Giroir said.

By September, Giroir said he expects half of all tests in the US to be point-of-care tests, but he warned, “You can’t test your way out of this.” People must also use masks, avoid crowds and avoid being indoors with others, he said.