LANSING, Mich. — Ever since the pandemic hit there have been challenges with supply and demand, and it's no different when it comes to COVID-19 testing supplies.
Health care officials in mid-Michigan say they are concerned about a shortage as COVID cases are on the rise.
"Michigan has been dealing with Delta for quite a while now. We are 98 99 percent Delta variant in the state. And that has been the case since sometime in August," said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.
And case numbers in Michigan are climbing, she said, "not on a steep upward trend. We're kind of in this just kind of gradual climb, but we are still there."
On top of that, with more companies requiring testing for their unvaccinated employees, schools requiring tests for unvaccinated students, demand is spiking.
"There's been a lot more demand for various COVID testing recently, because of the mandate that the president put out," said Dr. James Richard, medical director at Sparrow Laboratories.
He's referring to President Joe Biden's plan to require employers with 100 plus employees to institute mandatory vaccinations or weekly testing.
That plan is likely to face multiple legal challenges in the coming weeks, but, if it goes into effect, Richard says that means a lot more people are going to be tested.
"Because we need those results in a fairly rapid fashion in order to make sure that the community is safe," Richard said.
He says the challenge is being able to provide those tests at high quality with a rapid turnaround time.
"And that's where we're struggling right now is in getting the rapid turnaround time tests, supplies have been restricted, or what we call put on allocation, so you cannot get more than what you had been. So consequently, we look at a situation where we may not be able to get the test turned around quick enough to be able to be helpful in regards to the workforce," Richard said.
He says they don't have a problem testing patients at this time. But, as they become more dependent upon rapid rest results, they have risks in regards to supply chain.
"Whether it's supplies or whether it's reagents, things of that nature," Richard says. "We have plenty of people to do the work, but now we're looking sometimes for different equipment or different test suppliers."
Over at Lansing Urgent Care rapid testing has been in high demand.
"We have been challenged with supply in the past. We are anticipating a shortage again, especially with our rapid COVID testing," said Hillary Myers, executive director of operations at Lansing Urgent Care.
She says right now they are seeing high demand for testing, which can effect turnaround time "depending on when we're surging and what the volumes are at the time.
"For example, right now, where we're seeing pretty heavy volumes of testing. It's going to take anywhere from two to four days," she said.
She says Lansing Urgent Care is testing about a few thousand people a week right now.
"We've been creative, and we have been working with multiple suppliers, so that we don't run out so that we have plenty of supply to meet the demand of not only what patients need right now, but also future needs," Myers said.
Vail says home kits are hard to find as well and there's a shortage accessing those.
"We've just got to basically start planning for an increase in demand for testing and figuring out how the different vendors, the different providers in town can kind of, you know, spread that out," Vail said.
Vail says she doesn't think Biden's plan will cause any issues.
"You know, a lot of that employer testing will be these rapid antigen tests by BinaxNow is one of the brands that's often used. So that's a completely different issue in terms of testing for that employer screening testing," Vail said.
And hypothetically speaking if a shortage does happen, she says we would be back like we were when the pandemic first started.
"There was not sufficient testing. So we would then base diagnosis on what we call a case definition," Vail said. "That case definition has to do with symptoms, exposure, those sorts of things, which all things point to COVID, and then you get the test."
She says ways the public can help is by getting tested for the right reasons like a known exposure or when you have symptoms.
Another thing you can do is get vaccinated and wear your mask when out in public.
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