Adm. Brett Giroir sotu tapper split
Tapper hammers HHS assistant secretary on testing delays
02:35 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

The Trump administration official overseeing critical coronavirus testing on Sunday conceded that turnaround times are still too long in the United States, as officials try to get a handle on the virus months into the pandemic.

“I started out by saying that we are never going to be happy with testing until we get turnaround times within 24 hours and I would be happy with point-of-care testing everywhere. We are not there yet. We are doing everything we can to do that,” Adm. Brett Giroir told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“We need to continually improve our ecosystem,” added Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The comments from Giroir come as multiple states grapple with high caseloads from the virus, and as some states, labs and public health departments are reporting that turnaround times for diagnostic testing have slowed. Health officials have cautioned that the long delays Americans are seeing across the country in getting Covid-19 test results are problematic.

The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, said last week that such a delay “undercuts the value of the testing, because you do the testing to find out who’s carrying the virus and then quickly get them isolated so they don’t spread it around.”

Giroir said Sunday that over 54 million tests have been done so far and that 770,000 are conducted daily, which is a “140-fold increase in terms of turnaround.”

Around a quarter of the tests are point-of-care – meaning doctor’s offices or clinics can collect samples from patients using swabs and quickly test the samples without having to transport them to specialized labs – with a 15-minute turnaround, and another quarter are done at local hospitals and labs, with a general turnaround of 24 hours, according to Giroir.

“The delays that most people talk about are at the large commercial labs that perform about half the testing in our country,” he said, adding that the average turnaround is about 4.27 days.

“I follow that morning and evening, I know exactly when it’s ordered and when it’s resulted,” he said. “We are trying to bring that down.”

Giroir also said that last week, pool testing was authorized at Quest and LabCorp, which will help “improve efficiency.” Surge testing is also being added to “a number of cities where there are outbreaks,” and point-of-care testing is being increased at nursing homes, he said.

Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for more funding for testing and contact tracing.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are growing more confident that the Trump administration is moving to support $25 billion in additional funding for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing. The White House had initially pushed back on GOP efforts to increase federal funding for testing.

This story has been updated with additional comments from Adm. Brett Giroir on “State of the Union.”

CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Lauren Fox and Clare Foran contributed to this report.