Healthbeat: Association of American Medical Colleges calls for national testing strategy

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The number of COVID-19 cases is surging in Pennsylvania and most other states. While some may say that’s largely the result of increased testing, an organization that represents medical schools and teaching hospitals claims the numbers are actually underdone.

That organization is the Association of American Medical Colleges. AAMC claims current testing for novel coronavirus is inadequate because there is no clear national testing strategy.

“It’s been difficult to fully understand where the virus is and how it’s affecting different states,” said Heather Pierce, JD, MPH who is Senior Director at the Science Policy and Regulatory Counsel, AAMC.

The reason according to Pierce? With no national coordinated testing strategy, each state is left to develop its own.

“And that hasn’t worked because the virus doesn’t respect state borders.”

Three types of testing options exist. Diagnostic testing is done on someone suspected of having COVID or being in contact with someone who has it. Screening testing is carried out systematically among a percentage of a population such as a school to quickly identify where the virus exists. Surveillance testing, a broader form of testing, can narrow down areas of concern. Pierce calls each means of testing important for the U.S. to identify, track and curtail the spread of COVID-19 and help focus attention and resources.

“Whether those are testing needs, healthcare needs, protective equipment into those areas where we know ahead of time that the virus is making a huge impact.”

While we hear reports of testing increasing nationally in recent months, sometimes nearly a million people a day, Pierce says the testing needs far outweigh testing capacity. She points to key groups like schools and colleges, and hospitals and nursing homes where screening needs to ramp up.

“A conservative strategy might suggest we should be testing up to nine million people a day, not less than one million people a day. So we have a long way to go.”

Pierce tells Eyewitness News testing alone isn’t the solution to turning the tide and that we need more mask wearing, social distancing, contact tracing and isolating of people with the virus until they are no longer contagious.

Head to the AAMC website to learn more about their recommendations for COVID-19 testing.

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