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COVID-19 testing problems started early, U.S. still playing from behind

NEW YORK – Four months since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the U.S., the demand for testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus still far outpaces the supply, even as test developers scramble to increase their testing capacity and new types of tests make their way into the market.

Despite assurances early on from President Trump that everyone who needed a test would get one, and his more recent claim that the U.S. has tested more people than all other countries combined — an assertion that has been disproven — the reality is that very few Americans have gotten tested, including many who may have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, about 8.4 million Americans, or 2.5% of the total U.S. population, were tested for COVID-19 as of May 9. Meanwhile, dozens of tests have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, with the list growing almost daily. Along with molecular tests, serology tests, and most recently, a rapid, protein-based antigen assay, have also been authorized for use to help diagnose COVID-19 and track spread of the disease.

Although experts say testing is crucial to reopening the economy, the U.S. testing pipeline faced early problems. While the situation is improving, the country still has not caught up.

With a few months left until a second wave of coronavirus infections is expected in the fall, that could leave the U.S. once again unprepared and vulnerable.

Early problems

On Jan. 31, a little more than two weeks after COVID-19 hit the U.S., the Trump administration declared a public health emergency. Four days later, the FDA gave a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention test an emergency use authorization.

We fell behind the curve from the beginning,” said Harry Glorikian a general partner at New Ventures Funds, a venture capital firm that invests in therapeutics, precision medicine, diagnostics, and technology companies

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