The federal government is working on delays in coronavirus testing, but the country needs to lean more on prevention, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says.
“It’s important to know that a test result that comes back seven, 10, 14 days later, does not allow us to isolate and contact trace, which is something that we feel is important to contain the virus, so we’re very cognizant of concerns about delays,” Adams said Sunday on INFocus, a Fox news magazine show focused on Indiana.
“As a public health physician, I want people to know that we feel tests are important, but we can’t test our way out of this problem,” Adams added. “We need to lean on prevention, and that’s making sure everyone’s wearing a mask, washing their hands, and watching their distance from others.”
Adams said that about 50% of the testing done in the US is either point of care “which is 15 minutes or less” to get results, or in hospitals “which is 24 hours or less.”
“So what we’re really talking about is the 50% of tests that are done in private labs, and right now …the testing time on average across the country is now down to less than three days for the private labs and most private lab tests are coming back within two days,” Adams said.
“So this is a problem — it’s a problem for some labs and some people in particular. It’s a problem we’re working on, but we’re continuing to drive down those cases.”
When asked about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments that “we aren’t doing great” compared to other countries, Adams said, “I think that two things can be true at once: it can be true there are a lot of people out there doing the right thing and also true that we need to do better.”
Adams noted that the US has not seen the more than 1 million deaths that some health experts were predicting. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t do more. We must stay vigilant,” he said. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 170,000 Americans have died of coronavirus, although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 90% of cases have likely been missed.
Adams blamed the spike in numbers on spring and summer fever, which has people wanting to “hang out” with friends and family. “What I would say to folks is, we can get through this… and get to a place where we can safely reopen. But if people just ignore those basic public health measures, we’re going to continue to see spread increasing and we’re actually going to lose choices and lose freedom, because we’re going to be forced to shut down,” he said.
Adams said Indianapolis “has been on our radar screen” because more than 10% of people tested for coronavirus in Marion county have had positive test results — in the red zone. The same goes for Fort Wayne’s Allen county.
“We want the people of the state to know we are concerned but also want them to know we have the tools to turn this around,” he said.
Before becoming surgeon general, Adams was Indiana’s state health commissioner.