Now that the latest coronavirus relief package, known as the Heroes Act, has moved forward to the U.S. Senate, AACC has sent a letter to Senate leadership outlining five key recommendations that will improve COVID-19 testing capacity across the U.S. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) urges the Senate to ensure these recommendations are addressed within the Heroes Act, as they are critical to preventing a second wave of the pandemic.
With many states easing social distancing measures, it is more important than ever that the U.S. perform widespread testing for COVID-19 to contain the virus. However, the country is still falling well short of the testing levels that experts say are needed to prevent a second wave. For example, the U.S. performed an average of about 386,000 tests per day over the past week, but researchers from Harvard’s Global Health Institute estimate that the country needs to perform 900,000 tests per day to see a continued decline in cases. Previous coronavirus aid bills passed by Congress have played a crucial role in enabling the healthcare sector to ramp up to even these current testing levels. Like the legislation that has come before it, the Heroes Act as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives already includes essential provisions for combating the pandemic. However, there is still much more that needs to be done to prevent coronavirus cases from climbing again.
To address the remaining gaps in U.S. testing, AACC’s members—who are clinical laboratory experts on the frontlines of COVID-19 testing—recommend that Congress include the following steps in any final package:
1. First, HHS should work with government stakeholders to develop a testing strategy that establishes a common terminology, identifies current challenges, specifies necessary resources, sets forth a plan for acquiring and distributing needed materials, and creates benchmarks and timelines for measuring progress.
2. To combat persistent testing supply shortages, the federal government should ensure that supplies are manufactured and distributed to labs in a timely manner. This effort should also enable healthcare facilities to regularly report their inventory levels so that the government can identify need and more equitably allocate resources.
3. Congressional leaders should continue to provide additional funding to CDC so that it can build the public health infrastructure needed to address this crisis.
4. The federal government should expand high-quality COVID-19 antibody testing by certifying the quality of these tests and reimbursing laboratories sufficiently for accurate antibody tests to facilitate widespread patient access to them.
5. The government should also continue to grant financial aid to healthcare facilities to offset the huge financial losses they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.
“Thanks to Congress’ rapid and comprehensive approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector has made significant advances in expanding testing capacity,” said AACC president Dr. Carmen Wiley. “This has made it possible to better diagnose and care for patients and to slow the pandemic overall. We now urge the Senate to align the Heroes Act with lab experts’ recommendations before passing it into law, which is crucial to ensuring that the progress we’ve made fighting COVID-19 continues.”
Source: American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)