Decline in COVID-19 Test Orders Signals a Shift

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MIGHT THE FEDERAL HEALTHCARE ESTABLISHMENT BE CLOSE TO DECLARING AN END TO THE SARS-COV2 PANDEMIC and—given the ongoing decline in the daily number of new cases and deaths—that COVID-19 is expected to become an endemic disease? 

The SARS-CoV-2 statistics posted daily by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that, as of March 31, the seven-day moving averages for these factors were: 

  • 28,670 for new COVID-19 cases. 
  • 605 for COVID-19 deaths. 
  • 597,424 for COVID-19 test volume. 

The last time all three of these factors were at comparable levels was on July 15, 2021. Another relevant statistic is that the current positivity rate for COVID-19 tests is 2.5%. That compares with a 29.31% positivity rate on Jan. 9 of this year (as the Omicron variant became prevalent) and a 1.74% positivity rate as of June 17, 2021. 

Epidemiologists point out that the history of pandemics indicates they can last from 18 to 30 months. One can look at the daily national statistics reported by the CDC to see how they support the assertion that the pandemic is ending and possibly evolving into an endemic disease. 

The economics of COVID-19 testing are compelling. Employers, school districts, universities, and colleges will not want to continue to bear the expense of frequent COVID-19 testing if the statistics show that a testing program is not delivering benefits. At the same time, to be fair to public health officials, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients remains a concern, as the daily number of COVID-19 deaths have not declined at the same rate as the daily number of new COVID-19 cases. 

In this issue, we report on the State of California’s decision to cancel its contract with PerkinElmer to operate the Valencia Branch Laboratory—built in 2020 specifically to do COVID-19 testing. This announcement suggests state officials may recognize that federal funding for such tests is coming to an end. Clinical laboratory administrators and pathologists may want to reassess their own lab’s COVID-19 testing programs in light of these developments. 

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