US hospital leaders call coronavirus testing ‘slow,’ ‘unacceptable’

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Testing for the coronavirus remains inadequate across the U.S., preventing health officials from understanding the full scope of the outbreak, American hospital leaders told CNBC on Thursday. 

For New Jersey-based Atlantic Health, it takes on average around three to five days, starting from when a patient requests a test until a result is delivered, according to CEO Brian Gragnolati. 

“And that’s just unacceptable,” Gragnolati said on “Squawk Alley.”

Denver Health’s chief medical officer, Dr. Connie Savor Price, said it doesn’t take quite that long at the company’s hospital in the city, but “the turnaround time is still slow.”

“It’s looking like between 24 and 48 hours, but ideally we would like to know sooner,” Price said. “The sooner we know the sooner we can implement control measures on known positives.” 

Gragnolati and Price’s criticism is shared by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official who testified Thursday in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

“The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not,” Fauci testified. 

Both Gragnolati and Price said the number of cases in the U.S. will dramatically increase in the coming days as more Americans get tested. 

“We have to get this testing back. I hate to keep banging on that, but that is such an important piece because we’ve got know what we’re dealing with,” Gragnolati said. 

The U.S. had at least 1,323 confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There have been at least 38 deaths. 

“We’re going to see a surge in the number of cases. We’re going to see a lot of people getting tested,” Price said. “We’re going to see a lot more positive cases, and we need to protect our most vulnerable so that we don’t see the death rate we’ve seen in other places of the world.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken steps during the course of the outbreak to make it easier for more facilities to conduct tests.

Initially, only a few labs in the country, including one at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta, were allowed to run testing. 

Those who have criticized the amount of testing in the U.S. point to the aggressive approach taken by countries such as South Korea, where since early January, more than 200,000 people have been tested. 

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