There are still not enough Americans being tested for COVID-19, but there are now many, many ways to be tested. The U.S. started this pandemic with a single diagnostic test, administered solely by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there are now 57 different tests that have been granted emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration and more than 190 laboratories are conducting them. The FDA says it is aware of hundreds more tests in various stages of development. Press releases touting the latest and greatest fill the inboxes of journalists like viruses replicating in a cell.
It’s an overwhelming jumble, and even some experts have lost count of how many new tests are out there. The proliferation has helped the country drastically increase its testing capacity. “We went from zero tests a day to … something. I don’t know, but well over 100,000 tests a day. In that one month,” said Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant director of the University of Washington’s Clinical Virology Laboratory.
But experts say we still don’t have enough tests to safely do something as complicated as reopen the economy. Yet the test development process has been optimized for speed, rather than quality. Somehow, we’re simultaneously not moving fast enough while also moving a little too fast.