ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – Coronavirus testing at MAJL Diagnostic Laboratories has dropped 50%.
“We were doing close to 1,000 tests a week, now we're at 500,” said Dr. Darren Naugles, chief medical officer of Elite Medical Group which oversees the lab. “Why because the media or politicians are putting it out there that we don't need to be tested and if you look at the current guidelines – theguidelines stress that.”
Those guidelines are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recent changes on testing for people who show no signs of symptoms.
Last month, the CDC, said asymptomatic people should only be tested if they’re vulnerable, and have come in close contact with an infected person, social distancing at least 6 feet and for at least 15 minutes.
“I think with the guidelines it can lead people to a false sense of security meaning that people who are asymptomatic can't transmit the disease,” Naugles said.
Six months into the pandemic testing remains an obstacle – from the limitation in testing sites during the initial months of the virus to delays in results and backlogs over the summer.
Now, as flu season approaches, public health workers are concerned over supply shortages.
MAJL lab’s owner and director of operations, Lisa Nicole Cloud, said certain testing instruments and reagents – the chemicals used in test kits – are continually on back order.
“We've had some equipment on order since April,” she said. “I believe that if every laboratory in this country was testing at max capacity, we still wouldn't have enough instrumentation to be able to run all the necessary tests needed.”
Georgia’s Public Health Department said despite a decreasing in testing across the state, positive COVID-19 cases are also decreasing. On Wednesday, it released a news release touting a 11.7% drop in positive cases from Sept. 1 – Sept. 8.
“Obviously we want things to look like they're getting better,” said Cloud. “But for some populations that are at higher risk of mortality I don't think we should be playing with peoples’ lives, particularly African Americans, Latinos.”
Cloud said some manufacturers have said she won't receive equipment until next year. Delays in mail services are also contributing to a stall in supplies.
The latest numbers from the state’s Public Health Department show more than 6,200 Georgians have died from the virus. Public health workers, like Dr. Colin Smith, said a perfect storm could be brewing, despite the decrease in numbers.
Smith – a clinical assistant professor at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health – said flu season and a lack of personal responsibility could bring on a setback.
“You have individuals not engaging in the same level of testing. You have a lack of emphasis on the constant messaging in terms of wearing masks, washing hands engaging in social distancing. I think we need to be very careful,” he said.
He said it’s time for Georgia public health officials and the governor to rethink state guidelines.
“Maybe we will have to go and strengthen the recommendations so that maybe we will align with what we're supposed to be doing,” he said.