High demand for COVID-19 testing supplies in other states temporarily halts asymptomatic testing in Albuquerque

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Three Albuquerque hospitals announced that they are temporarily pausing COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people. They didn’t give a specific answer as to why but only saying it’s because of an “unanticipated disruption” in COVID-19 testing supplies. TriCore Labs, one of the places where they perform the COVID-19 tests, said it’s because there’s a high demand for the coronavirus tests in other states.

“Supplies have been a challenge since the beginning of this pandemic,” said Dr. Karissa Culbreath, Medical Director for Infectious Disease Diagnostics at TriCore Labs in Albuquerque.

TriCore Labs said since the pandemic hit New Mexico in March, they’ve gathered COVID-19 testing supplies from multiple manufacturers, which includes the PCR test. “PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction and it’s the type of test we use to look for the coronavirus,” said Dr. Culbreath.

On Wednesday, Lovelace, Presbyterian and the University of New Mexico Health announced they are temporarily stopping asymptomatic testing because of an “unanticipated disruption” in COVID-19 PCR testing supplies.

TriCore said the reason behind it is simple economics.

“Now these PCR reagents that we actually use to perform the tests, those we get from many manufacturers from across the country and because of the increased demand on testing that we’re seeing in states all over, it’s putting a demand on the system,” said Dr. Culbreath. “We get a certain number of supplies that we get per week and there are times we have limitations being asked for additional supplies from those manufacturers.”

Even with this delicate balance of supply and demand, TriCore said they will still be able to test their maximum capacity of 3,700 cases each day.

“Dealing with this supply and demand issue is something every New Mexican can help Tricore with,” said Dr. Culbreath. “And that’s every time you wear a mask or practice social distancing, you limit your exposures that’s preventing another test coming to our lab.”

Local Albuquerque hospitals will still be testing people who have COVID-19 symptoms and people coming into the hospital for non-coronavirus related procedures and surgeries. Presbyterian will also test people who have been exposed to the coronavirus. TriCore said from March until now, they’ve tested 250,000 cases for the coronavirus in New Mexico.

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