It is hard to recall another time in this generation when diagnostic testing has been demanded at the same scale or speed as it has been in 2020. Though we’ve experienced widespread outbreaks of many infectious diseases and even contended with other pandemics, no other contagion has had such a dramatic and equal impact on the global population and healthcare system as COVID-19.
As we work to contain the further spread of this virus, a significant emphasis is being placed on increasing testing capacity. Drive-thru and walk-up testing sites are popping up in parking lots and retail stores, and manufacturers are ramping up production of testing kits to help ensure anyone who needs or wants a test can get one. Yet, increasing specimen collection capacity is only going to be fruitful in our fight against COVID-19 if we have the means to quickly process those tests and communicate positive test results back to patients, healthcare providers and contact tracers.
(The faster we can notify others in the community of known/potential exposure and get them into isolation, the more effective we become at mitigating asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic spread. Of course, confirming a positive case also helps to inform treatment plans for symptomatic patients, especially those hospitalized.)