Why Covid-19 test results are taking so long

At the beginning of the pandemic in the United States in March, shortages of coronavirus tests caused massive delays in accurate case counts. Now, there are still diagnostic delays, with the wait times for results reaching up to two weeks, but for a completely different reason: There are too many kinds of tests.

How did the country get here? First, in February, a faulty reagent fiasco rendered tests from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—at the time, the only ones authorized—useless. So the head of the department of Health and Human Services determined that the novel coronavirus was enough of a threat to justify the emergency use of certain tools. Instead of its typical rigorous review, the US Food and Drug Administration would give tests and treatments a different kind of temporary clearance to get them on the ground as soon as possible.

It worked—sort of. The US FDA has now granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to about 150 tests that can detect genetic material from SARS-CoV-2.

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