Mayor Sandy Stimpson had a more pessimistic tone Monday when discussing a shortage of COVID-19 test kits and when Mobile might see large-scale testing efforts begin.
At a press conference at Government Plaza, Stimpson told reporters that Synergy Laboratories, which is set to produce tests for the city’s two planned testing sites, is facing the same shortage in supplies needed to create test kits that other labs are dealing with across the country.
Last week, Stimpson said he anticipated having test kits by April 1, but that now seems to be uncertain.
“They are all trying to find suppliers for whatever they need. They’re at the mercy of suppliers,” Stimpson said. “Almost all suppliers are in a foriegn country and many are in places like Italy and China. They’re all waiting on supplies.”
In addition to being unsure of when the Synergy tests will be available, Stimpson said he didn’t know when the Mobile County Health Department would receive test kits through the Alabama Department of Public Health. Previously, MCHD officials have said that test kits they’ve requested for Mobile have been redirected to other states by the federal government.
When the test kits do arrive, Stimpson said he’s unsure how many tests Synergy’s lab will be able to process per day. He said a drive-in test site at The Church of the Highlands in Birmingham had to stop testing because the amount of tests per day was overwhelming the local laboratory it was using.
“We’re in the middle of a supply and demand crisis,” Stimpson said. “If you test too many people, the labs can’t keep up.”
However, Stimpson did say that a loosening of regulations at the federal level will continue to result in more tests being produced. He also said that more private labs are getting involved nationally.
“You will see the private sector step up in ways they’ve never had to before,” Stimpson said.
For now, however, Stimpson said it’s important to let healthcare workers be the first to receive testing and personal protective equipment, like masks and respirators. After healthcare workers, he said, it’s important first responders and other “mission critical” city employees have access. It’s also important to let the elderly, especially those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, access testing as well.
According to Stimpson, all four local hospitals and two clinics have access to test kits and are testing patients based on a limited set of criteria. The Infirmary Health System and Greater Mobile Urgent Care are also testing by appointment only, though the number of those being tested per day is limited.
The telehealth hotline for Greater Mobile Urgent Care is (251) 633-0123, while a similar hotline for Infirmary Health’s testing sites can be reached at 251-341-CV19 (2819).
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