Labs Adjust to COVID-19 as a Regular Part of Care

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ONE INTERESTING NEW DEVELOPMENT NOT REPORTED MUCH BY THE NATIONAL MEDIA is that the daily number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has declined steadily in the past month. It is too early to understand the implications of this development, but clinical lab administrators and pathologists may want to follow a basic statistic.

Here at The Dark Report, we monitor the CDC’s chart of the daily number of new COVID-19 cases. All labs testing for COVID-19 are submitting their test results daily to the federal government, as directed in recent legislation and federal rules. In theory, the daily count of new COVID-19 cases posted on the coronavirus pages of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website should be as accurate as any other source tracking such data, such as the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracking Center.

As presented by the CDC on its website, the seven-day moving average of daily new SARS-CoV-2 cases in the United States peaked at 66,960 on July 24. Today, one month later, the seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases has declined to 44,700. In those four weeks, the fall-off in daily new cases was 29%. It is unclear if this four-week decline will continue until the daily number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States drops to a small number, thus easing the restrictions on normal business and social activity.

The opposite may prove true. After a month or more of decline, the daily COVID-19 case count could increase in what would be recognized as a third wave. Some experts predict exactly that. They point out that—in six weeks—October will bring the start of the influenza season.

Regardless of scenario A: that daily COVID-19 case counts continue to decline in coming months; or scenario B: that the flu season triggers a surge in daily new infections, it will be true that patients, caregivers, and employers will continue to be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 infections. One solid conclusion is that COVID-19 concerns will be prominent in American society for months, if not years, into the future.

Thus, it would be timely for clinical labs and pathology groups to factor this probability into their clinical and business strategies. All labs need to adjust to the reality that COVID-19 is now part of regular care that every patient receives.

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