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July 8, 2020, 9:45 p.m. EDT

Americans frustrated with testing delays as coronavirus surges

‘It is an abject failure of leadership,’ Harvard doctor says of continued testing problems

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By Associated Press

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• A crowd of thousands attending President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in late June, along with large groups of people who showed up to protest, “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases in the area, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday. Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed cases on Monday, a new record one-day high, and another 206 confirmed cases on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

• Most New York City students will return to school in the fall two or three days a week and learn online the rest of the time under a plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio. He said schools can’t accommodate all their students at any one time and maintain social distancing. The school system in New York is the biggest in the nation, with 1.1 million students. It has been closed since March.

In New York City, the most lethal hot spot in the nation during the spring, testing was scarce early on but is now widely available. As many as 35,000 tests are conducted daily through a combination of private health organizations and city agencies, according to the city Health Department.

“Widespread testing holds the key to reopening our city safely,” de Blasio said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week said it will open free “surge testing” sites in three hard-hit cities: Jacksonville, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Edinburg, Texas. The sites will be able to conduct as many as 5,000 tests a day in each city, with results in three to five days, officials said.

In Georgia, one of the states where cases are surging, officials are rushing to expand testing capacity as demand threatens to overwhelm six major sites around Atlanta, said DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond.

“If you project this out over the next three weeks, we can’t handle it,” he said.

In New Orleans, people were turned away from a free testing site for a third consecutive day after it reached its daily allotment of tests. Health care providers are running low on trays and chemicals needed to run machines used in the tests.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego called the situation there “desperate” as residents have sat in sun-baked cars for up to 13 hours to get drive-thru testing. Robert Fenton, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA is doubling the testing supplies it plans to ship to Arizona.

Patrick Friday, a United Methodist minister in Alabama, went to several hospitals and clinics in Birmingham this week to get checked after his school-age son tested positive. But he was told that unless he had a preexisting condition, he didn’t qualify.

Finally, he ended up at a site offering rapid-result tests and his negative result came back quickly.

“We are several months into this,” he said. “How can it be that we can’t go in and get a test?”

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