Most U.S. coronavirus testing is "total waste" because it takes so long to get the results in time that people can isolate themselves once they find out they have the virus, said billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates towards CNBC.
"The easiest thing to do with such insanity is that you shouldn't reimburse anyone for a test that takes more than 48 hours to get the result back," Gates said in an interview that aired on Tuesday on "Squawk Box". "" "This test is a complete waste, and with all these numbers about how much we test, the majority is just a complete waste."
Laboratories across the country are lagging behind in processing and providing test results due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the sun belt affecting their systems. Processing time for Covid 19 tests can take several days to a week or longer for many patients, said two of the country's largest laboratory diagnostics companies earlier this month.
"Right now, if you wait more than three days, sometimes seven days to get a test, nobody should pay $ 1 for it. This is crazy," Gates told Andrew Ross Sorkin in an interview Monday. "You have to get it back as soon as possible so that someone can change their behavior so that they don't infect other people."
The average time to get results is now more than two days for high-priority patients, including hospital patients, some preoperative patients, and symptomatic healthcare workers, Quest Diagnostics said late Monday. The company added that the test lead time for all others is more than seven days.
"You need to prioritize. You need to make sure that low-income communities that are most at risk get these results back in 24 hours," said Gates, Microsoft co-founder and co-chair of the bill and the Melinda Gates Foundation.
President Donald Trump has touted the increase in testing capacity in the United States and has even called the country "envy of the world" how many tests it does every day. However, the processing time for many of these tests, and arguably the most important types of tests, has become so long that many health officials have said they are not helpful in stopping outbreaks across the country.
Insufficient coronavirus testing has hampered efforts to curb the outbreak in the U.S. since the country's first case was confirmed in January. According to a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization created by journalists at The Atlantic, the nation has continued to increase its tests, running an average of more than 738,585 tests per day in July. This corresponds to a daily average of just over 174,000 diagnostic tests, which according to the CNBC analysis are carried out nationwide per day until April.
Adm. Brett Giroir, deputy health minister at HHS, and several other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have repeatedly defended US tests. Giroir said the average turnaround time for molecular diagnostic tests is a little over four days, with the delay not affecting all tests.
The delay only affects molecular tests that are the best on the market. However, quick point-of-care tests can produce results in minutes. However, point-of-care tests tend to be less sensitive, which means that they have a higher rate of false negative tests.
Molecular or PCR tests are the most reliable on the market, but they are also the most exposed to weaknesses in the supply chain. Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest manufacturers and processors of Covid-19 molecular tests, warned on Monday that test lead times have slowed further in recent weeks.