OK, people, it’s time to correct some facts on laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2. The media and our government officials recently seem to think that the reason why SARS-CoV-2 laboratory tests are taking such a long time is because lab staff are twiddling their thumbs, leisurely drinking coffee and occasionally sneaking out of the lab to play golf. Today, a friend relayed that, if Chick-fil-A were in charge of lab testing, there would be no delays.
Yeah, that’s like saying that I could drive a lot faster in my car if Honda owned it despite the fact that the gas tank is nearly empty and there’s a million red lights ahead.
For fun, I’ll use a similar theme for an analogy for my non-laboratory friends.
Let’s say that suddenly, there is an incredible new, global and increasing demand for a new kind of fried chicken sandwich that uses the same chicken but which has a new and special coating. As soon as the fast food chains start developing recipes for the new coating, the federal government says that, even though fast food chains have legally made safe coating for fried chicken in the past, no one can make their own coating for this special fried chicken. Instead, fast food chains have to use coating that was made by someone else, and then only if that coating was previously approved for emergency use by the FDA. So, now all the fast food chains have to wait for companies to make the coating and get it approved by the FDA. By the time some companies start to deliver FDA-approved coating to fast food chains, there is a growing national and international shortage of chicken, frying oil and buns. Some fast food chains start having to import ingredients from outside the country. In fact, they are having to dedicate multiple full-time employees to do nothing except try to find ingredients from whoever is able to sell it to them while still making sure that the ingredients are safe for human consumption. Meanwhile, demand has doubled several times over, and fast food chains are being put on allocation by the companies making the FDA-approved coating because they can’t ramp up production fast enough. Fast food chains try to purchase additional chicken fryers to help meet demand, only to be told that the companies that make them have sold out. After a few months of this vicious cycle with demand outpacing supply, the beleaguered fast food chains see on the news that journalists and the feds are starting to publicly question the ability of the fast food chains to fry chicken entirely.
In summary, be kind to your laboratories and their staff. They are working very hard, and they are breaking through unbelievable and ridiculous barriers (including cuts to staffing in some organizations) to deliver test results. Because they are not on the front lines, they are sadly more likely to be vilified than to be lauded as the heroes that they are due to their efforts.