In addition to viruses, wastewater analysis can also be used to detect the presence of chemical substances such as opioids
Wastewater surveillance and analysis continues to be a useful tool for detecting the prevalence of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in a community. Perhaps more importantly, wastewater surveillance can fill in gaps where clinical laboratory testing data may be days or weeks behind the true spread of viral infections.
One sign of the value of testing wastewater for infectious diseases is the fact that government officials are financing a continuing program of wastewater testing. In September, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded a contract to conduct wastewater surveillance/analysis worth millions of dollars to Verily Life Sciences, a Google company, rather than renewing its contract with Biobot Analytics, which had been doing the work since 2020. One interesting twist in the award of this contract is how an ensuing dispute pulled the plug on a significant portion of the wastewater analysis in this country.
In their September Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the CDC highlighted a CDC study during which wastewater samples were taken from 40 wastewater treatment plants located in Wisconsin’s three largest cities. The samples were collected weekly and tested for influenza and RSV. The findings were then compared with data regarding emergency department (ED) visits for those diseases.
The CDC found that higher detections of flu and RSV were associated with higher rates of ED visits for both illnesses. The study also suggests that wastewater might detect the spread of these viruses earlier than ED visit data alone.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 provided valuable insight into community incidence of COVID-19,” said Peter DeJonge, PhD (above), a CDC Career Epidemiology Field Officer, in an interview with Infectious Disease Special Edition. “[The CDC’s] report supports the idea that wastewater surveillance also has the potential to serve as a useful method with which to track community spread of influenza and RSV.” Local clinical laboratories are also involved in the CDC’s wastewater surveillance programs. (Photo copyright: CDC.)
Keeping Communities Informed about Spread of Viral Infections
The CDC’s study was conducted from August 2022 to March 2023. The wastewater samples from all three cities tested positive for the viruses in advance of increases in ED visits. After the ED visits for those viruses had subsided, the viral material remained in sewersheds for up to three months.
“Both influenza and RSV can cause substantial amounts of illness, hospitalization, and even death during annual epidemics, which often occur during winter months in the US,” Peter DeJonge, PhD, a CDC Career Epidemiology Field Officer assigned to the Chicago Department of Public Health, told Infectious Disease Special Edition (IDSE). “Clinical providers and public health officials benefit from surveillance data to understand when and where these diseases are spreading in a community each year. This type of data can help prepare clinics [and clinical laboratories] for anticipated cases, tailor public health messaging, and encourage timely vaccination.”
“The collective burden from these respiratory viruses is staggering. With these viruses circulating simultaneously and potentially shifting in seasonality and severity, communities must be able to understand the full impact of each of these illnesses to inform awareness and public health responses that can prevent infections, hospitalizations, and even deaths,” said Mariana Matus, PhD, CEO and cofounder of Biobot Analytics, in an August press release announcing the launch of a “Respiratory Illnesses Panel” that will monitor wastewater for Influenzas A and B (seasonal flu), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
“Traditional testing methods for these illnesses do not provide a comprehensive picture of the number of people infected due to inaccurate reporting, as well as asymptomatic or misdiagnosed cases,” Matus continued. “By monitoring wastewater concurrently for influenza, RSV, and SARS-CoV-2, we can fill in these gaps and provide important information to communities.”
CDC Moves to Change Wastewater Surveillance Contractor Mid-stream
As new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge, a recent contract dispute may be the cause of a time delay in efforts to perform wastewater surveillance for the disease, as well as for other viral infections, according to Politico.
The CDC’s move to replace Biobot Analytics with Verily Life Sciences to do wastewater surveillance has led to Biobot filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
According to World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), “The scope of the [Biobot] contract [to provide extended data for the public health agency’s National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS)] included data from more than 400 locations from over 250 counties across the entire United States, covering 60 million people. On top of this, Biobot also conducted genomic sequencing to identify the latest variants in circulation.”
About one quarter of the wastewater testing sites in the country have been shut down due to Biobot’s contract being suspended in September. The remaining 1,200 sites that are not covered under the original contract will continue wastewater testing, Politico reported.
The GAO hopes to have a decision on the contract dispute in January. Verily says it is ready to proceed with testing in all locations and already has its infrastructure in place.
“We are committed to working with the CDC to advance the goals of the … testing program, initiate testing on the samples already delivered when allowed to resume work, and make wastewater data available as quickly as possible,” Bradley White, PhD, Principal Scientist/Director at Verily, told Politico.
Under the terms of Verily’s contract, the company will collect samples from wastewater treatment centers cross the county and analyze the samples for COVID-19 and the mpox (monkey pox) virus.
This contract marks the first agreement between the CDC and Verily.
The CDC has not disclosed why it decided to change contractors, but it is probable that cost may have been played a role in the decision. Verily’s contract is for $38 million over the course of five years and Biobot’s most recent contract was for around $31 million for a period of less than 18 months, Politico reported.
In a LinkedIn post, Matus reported that Biobot had already laid off 35% of its staff due to the contract decision by the CDC.
Competition in Wastewater Surveillance Market
When seeking viruses in wastewater, scientists use gene-based detection methods to locate and amplify genetic signs of pathogens. But public health officials are just beginning to tap into the potential opportunities that may exist in the analysis of data present in wastewater.
Wastewater surveillance is also being looked at as a way to combat America’s opioid epidemic.
“Wastewater surveillance is becoming more mature and more mainstream month after month, year over year,” Matus told Time.
Thus, regardless of which companies end up working with the CDC, it appears that wastewater surveillance and analysis, which requires a great deal of clinical laboratory testing, will continue to help fight the spread of deadly viral infections, as well as possibly the nation’s drug epidemic.
Clinical laboratory leaders may be aware that many hospitals still do not have capabilities to make a timely diagnosis of sepsis
Despite the fact that “one in three people who dies in a hospital had sepsis during that hospitalization,” recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that many hospitals in the US lack the resources to identify sepsis and begin treatment as soon as possible, CNN reported.
According to the CDC, 1.7 million Americans develop sepsis annually. And of that group, at least 350,000 adults die in hospitals or hospice care centers. Clinical laboratories tasked with performing the plethora of tests needed to diagnose sepsis will agree that it is one of the gravest healthcare dangers patients face.
To address this potentially deadly threat, the CDC developed the “Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements: 2023” to support the implementation of sepsis protocols at all hospitals, to optimize any existing sepsis programs, and to organize staff and identify resources to lower sepsis rates and raise survivability.
“Modeled after CDC’s Core Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship, which has proven to be an impactful resource to protect patients from the harms caused by unnecessary antibiotic use and to combat antimicrobial resistance, the Sepsis Core Elements were created with the expectation that all hospitals, regardless of size and location, would benefit from this resource,” a CDC press release noted.
“CDC’s Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements are a guide for structuring sepsis programs that put your healthcare providers in the best position to rapidly identify and provide effective care for all types of patients with sepsis,” said Raymund Dantes, MD (above), Medical Advisor, National Healthcare Safety Network, CDC, and Associate Professor, Emory University School of Medicine, in a CDC press release. Hospital medical laboratories will play a key role in the success of the CDC’s sepsis program. (Photo copyright: Emory School of Medicine.)
Seven Elements to Improve Sepsis Diagnosis
Sepsis can occur when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight off an infection produce massive inflammation throughout the body. This potentially fatal reaction can cause a deluge of changes within the body that damage multiple organs, leading them to fail.
The CDC designed its hospital sepsis program to improve and monitor the management and outcomes of patients with sepsis. The core elements of the program include seven main points:
Hospital Leadership Commitment: Management must dedicate the necessary staff, financial, and information technology resources.
Accountability: Appoint a team responsible for program goals and outcomes.
Multi-professional Expertise: Make sure key personnel throughout the healthcare system are engaged in the program.
Action: Implement structures and processes to improve the identification of the illness and patient outcomes.
Tracking: Develop initiatives to measure sepsis epidemiology, management, overall outcomes, and progress towards established goals.
Reporting: Provide information on sepsis management and outcomes to relevant partners.
Education: Provide healthcare professionals, patients, and family/caregivers with information on sepsis.
“Sepsis is taking too many lives. One in three people who dies in a hospital has sepsis during that hospitalization. Rapid diagnosis and immediate appropriate treatment, including antibiotics, are essential to saving lives, yet the challenges of awareness about and recognition of sepsis are enormous,” said CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, in the CDC press release. “That’s why CDC is calling on all US hospitals to have a sepsis program and raise the bar on sepsis care by incorporating these seven core elements.”
Early Diagnosis Presents Challenges
Sepsis care is complex. The condition requires urgent medical intervention to prevent organ damage and death. But the symptoms, which include fever or low temperature, shivering, confusion, breathing difficulties, extreme body pain or discomfort, high heart rate, weak pulse or low blood pressure, and low urine output, can be general and indicative of other illnesses.
The diagnosis of sepsis usually requires the collection of a blood culture specimen that is then incubated until there is enough bacterial growth to identify the specific strains of bacteria in a particular patient. This process can take several days, which can delay the administering of the most effective treatment for the condition. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
A recent CDC survey of 5,221 US hospitals showed that in 2022, only 73% of hospitals reported having a sepsis program, ranging from 53% among hospitals with less than 25 beds to 95% among hospitals with over 500 beds.
That survey, released in the CDC’s August Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), also discovered that only 55% of all hospitals had personnel with dedicated time to manage and conduct necessary daily activities for a sepsis program.
“For those hospitals that already have sepsis programs underway and have available resources, we have a lot more details and best practices that we’ve collected from hospitals about how to better improve your sepsis programs,” he said. “The seven elements complement clinical guidelines by describing the leadership, expertise, tracking, education, and other elements that can be implemented in a wide variety of hospitals to improve the quality of sepsis care.”
Hospital Laboratories Play a Key Role in Reducing Sepsis
According to the CDC, anyone can get an infection and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. However, some populations are more vulnerable to sepsis than others. They include:
Pregnant or recently pregnant women
Patients in Intensive Care Units
People with weakened immune systems
People with chronic medical conditions
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 48.9 million sepsis cases and 11 million sepsis-related deaths worldwide in 2017. This number accounted for almost 20% of all global deaths. Almost half of all the global sepsis cases occurred in children, resulting in 2.9 million deaths in children under the age of five.
“Sepsis is complex, often difficult to identify, and takes a tremendous societal toll in the United States,” said Steven Simpson, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Kansas and Chair, Board of Directors, Sepsis Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and reducing suffering from sepsis, in a press release. “To tackle the number one killer in American hospitals, we need a comprehensive National Action Plan to find cures, get them in the hands of professionals, and educate the public and professionals alike.”
Hospital medical laboratories can help reduce sepsis by finding ways to support their physicians’ diagnoses of this infection that has taken so many lives.
According to the UCSF study, variations in a specific gene in a system of genes responsible for regulating the human immune system appears to be the factor in why about 10% of those who become infected with the virus are asymptomatic.
These scientific insights did not receive widespread news coverage but will be of interest to clinical laboratory managers and pathologists who oversee SARS-CoV-2 testing in their labs.
“Some people just don’t have symptoms at all,” Jill Hollenbach, PhD (above), Professor of Neurology atUCSF’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences and lead researcher in the study, told NBC News. “There’s something happening at a really fundamental level in the immune response that is helping those people to just completely wipe out this infection.” Identifying a genetic reason why some people are asymptomatic could lead to new precision medicine clinical laboratory diagnostics for COVID-19. (Photo copyright: Elena Zhukova /University of California San Francisco.)
Fortunate Gene Mutation
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID Data Tracker, as of April 5, 2023, a total of 104,242,889 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States. However, according to a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Traditional methods of disease surveillance do not capture all COVID-19 cases because some are asymptomatic, not diagnosed, or not reported; therefore, [knowing the true] proportion of the population with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (i.e., seroprevalence) can improve understanding of population-level incidence of COVID-19.”
She also participates in the COVID-19 HLA and Immunogenetics Consortium, a group of academic researchers, clinical laboratory directors, journal editors, and others who examine the role of HLA variations in determining COVID-19 risk.
Hollenbach’s research identified an HLA variant—known as HLA-B*15:01—that causes the human immune system to react quickly to SARS-CoV-2 and “basically nuke the infection before you even start to have symptoms,” she told NPR.
“It’s definitely luck,” she added. “But, you know, this [gene] mutation is quite common. We estimate that maybe one in 10 people have it. And in people who are asymptomatic, that rises to one in five.”
“HLA variants are among the strongest reported associations with viral infections,” the UCSF study notes. So, the researchers theorized that HLA variations play a role in asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections as well.
To conduct their study, shortly after the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in 2020, the researchers recruited approximately 30,000 volunteer bone marrow donors from the National Marrow Donor Program to respond to periodic questions via a smartphone app or website. Because HLA variations can determine appropriate matches between donors and recipients, the database includes information about their HLA types.
Each week, respondents were asked to report if they had been tested for SARS-CoV-2. Each day, they were asked to report whether they had symptoms associated with COVID-19. “We were pretty stringent in our definition of asymptomatic,” Hollenbach told NBC News. “[The respondents couldn’t] even have a scratchy throat.”
The researchers eventually identified a cohort of 1,428 people who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 between February 2020 and April 30, 2021, before vaccines were widely available. Among these individuals, 136 reported no symptoms for two weeks before or two weeks after a positive test.
“Overall, one in five individuals (20%) who remained asymptomatic after infection carried HLA-B*15:01, compared to 9% among patients reporting symptoms,” the researchers wrote in their medRxiv preprint. Study participants with two copies of the gene were more than eight times more likely to be asymptomatic.
The UCSF researchers also looked at four other HLA variants and found none to be “significantly associated” with lack of symptoms. They confirmed their findings by reproducing the HLA-B association in two additional independent cohorts, one from an earlier study in the UK and the other consisting of San Francisco-area residents.
Individuals in the latter group had either tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 or reported COVID symptoms, and their DNA was analyzed to determine their HLA types.
Pre-existing T-Cell Immunity May Reduce Severity of COVID-19 Infection
The UCSF researchers also attempted to determine how HLA-B*15:01 plays a role in knocking out SARS-CoV-2 infections. They noted previous research that indicated previous exposure to seasonal coronaviruses, such as common cold viruses, could limit the severity of COVID-19. The scientists hypothesized that pre-existing T-cell immunity in HLA-B carriers may be the key.
The COVID-19 HLA and Immunogenetics Consortium website describes how HLA and T-cells work together to ward off disease. HLA “proteins are found on the surface of all cells except red-blood cells.” They’re “like windows into the inner workings of a cell,” and T-cells use the molecules to determine the presence of foreign proteins that are likely signs of infection. “Activated T-cells can kill infected cells, or activate B-cells, which produce antibodies in response to an infection,” the website explains.
Hollenbach’s research team analyzed T-cells from pre-pandemic individuals and observed that in more than half of HLA-B carriers, the T-cells were reactive to a SARS-CoV-2 peptide. The scientists corroborated the hypothesis by examining crystal structures of the HLA-B*15:01 molecule in the presence of coronavirus spike peptides from SARS-CoV-2 and two other human coronaviruses: OC43-CoV and HKU1-CoV.
“Altogether, our results strongly support the hypothesis that HLA-B*15:01 mediates asymptomatic COVID-19 disease via pre-existing T-cell immunity due to previous exposure to HKU1-CoV and OC43-CoV,” the researchers wrote.
Can Genes Prevent COVID-19 Infections?
Meanwhile, researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York City are attempting to go further and see if there are mutations that prevent people from getting infected in the first place. NPR reported that they were seeking participants for a study seeking to identify so-called “superdodger” genes.
Study participants identified as possibly having superdodger genes receive a kit designed to collect saliva samples, after which the researchers sequence the respondents’ genomes. “We hope that in a group of 2,000 to 4,000 people, some people will have genetic mutations that tell us why they’re resistant to infection,” Casanova told NPR.
All this genetic research is in very early stages. But results are promising and may lead to new precision medicine clinical laboratory tests for identifying people who are predisposed to having an asymptomatic response to COVID-19 infection. That in turn could help scientists learn how to moderate or even eliminate symptoms in those unfortunate people who suffer the typical symptoms of the disease.
The global monkeypox outbreak that emerged last spring appears to have subsided in the US and Europe, though it remains to be seen if the disease can be completely eradicated, according to multiple media reports. As of Oct. 26, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 7-day rolling average of 30 cases per day in the US, down from a peak of nearly 440/day in early August.
Cases are also down in cities that earlier reported heavy outbreaks. For example, the New York City Health Department reported a 7-day average of just two cases per day on Oct. 25, compared with 73/day on July 30.
And the San Francisco Department of Public Health announced on Oct. 20 that it would end the city’s public health emergency on monkeypox (MPX) effective on Oct. 31. “MPX cases have slowed to less than one case per day and more than 27,000 San Franciscans are now vaccinated against the virus,” the agency stated in a press release.
“Once again, we caution that a declining outbreak can be the most dangerous outbreak, because it can tempt us to think that the crisis is over and to let down our guard,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, in an Oct. 12 global press briefing. “That’s not what WHO is doing. We are continuing to work with countries around the world to increase their testing capacity, and to monitor trends in the outbreak.” Clinical laboratories should not assume the outbreak has passed but continue to be vigilant and prepared for increased demand in monkeypox testing. (Photo copyright: ITU Pictures.)
Changing Behavior Lowers Infection Rates
In addition to high vaccination rates, public health experts have attributed the decline to behavioral changes among at-risk groups. “There were really substantial changes among men who have sex [with] men,” infectious disease physician Shira Doron, MD, of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told ABC News.
On September 2, the CDC published the results of a survey indicating that about half of men who have sex with men “reported reducing their number of sex partners, one-time sexual encounters, and use of dating apps because of the monkeypox outbreak.”
Another likely factor is the disease’s limited transmissibility. “Initially, there was a lot of concern that monkeypox could spread widely at daycares or in schools, but, overall, there has been very little spread among children,” NPR reported.
But citing multiple studies, the NPR story noted “that often there isn’t very much virus in the upper respiratory tract,” where it might spread through talking or coughing. “Instead, the highest levels of virus occur on sores found on the skin and inside the anus.”
These studies, along with earlier research, “explain why monkeypox is spreading almost exclusively through contact during sex, especially anal and oral sex, during the current outbreak,” NPR reported.
Monkeypox Could Mutate, experts say
Despite the promising numbers, public health experts are warning that monkeypox could remain as a long-term threat to public health. According to an article in Nature, “At best, the outbreak might fizzle out over the next few months or years. At worst, the virus could become endemic outside Africa by reaching new animal reservoirs, making it nearly impossible to eradicate.”
In addition to the limited transmissibility of the virus, Nature noted that the outbreak stems from a relatively mild form of the pathogen and is rarely fatal. As of Oct. 28, the CDC reported a total of just six confirmed deaths in the US out of a total of 28,302 confirmed cases since the first infections were reported in May.
“I have no confidence that all the people who need to be tested are being tested,” she told Nature. She expressed concerns that people could resume risky behavior if they think the danger has passed.
Another question is whether currently available vaccines offer long-lasting protection. And though reported case numbers are down in the US and Europe, they are rising in parts of Africa and South America, Nature noted.
Gottlieb’s Dire Prediction
The decline in new infections followed dire warnings last summer about the possible consequences of the outbreak. In his New York Times op-ed, former Gottlieb criticized the CDC for being slow to test for the virus. He wrote, “[I]f monkeypox gains a permanent foothold in the United States and becomes an endemic virus that joins our circulating repertoire of pathogens, it will be one of the worst public health failures in modern times not only because of the pain and peril of the disease but also because it was so avoidable.”
At the time of his writing, Gottlieb was right to be concerned. On July 29, the CDC reported a seven-day moving average of 390 reported cases per day. According to the federal agency, a reported case “Includes either the positive laboratory test report date, CDC call center reporting date, or case data entry date into CDC’s emergency response common operating platform, DCIPHER.”
Quashing the outbreak, Gottlieb estimated, would have required about 15,000 tests per week among people presenting symptoms resembling monkeypox. But between mid-May and the end of June, he noted, the CDC had tested only about 2,000 samples, according to the federal agency’s July 15 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
As a remedy, Gottlieb called on the Biden administration to re-focus the CDC’s efforts more on disease control “by transferring some of its disease prevention work to other agencies,” including the FDA.
Multiple recent studies reveal a substantial number of patients continue to delay needed healthcare in the months since the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak
Based on an analysis of hospital emergency department (ED) usage, federal researchers concluded that patients continue to be cautious when visiting healthcare providers, including clinical laboratories, and that people are altering how they seek and utilize emergency care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This not only reduces the number of typical test orders from the ER to the hospital lab, but also reduces the source of inpatient admissions.
Between March 29 and April 25 of this year, facilities the CDC examined recorded 1.2 million visits to EDs, compared to 2.1 million visits between March 31 and April 27 of last year. The steepest decrease in patient demographics was for individuals under the age of 14, women, and people living in the Northeast region.
The CDC’s data showed that 12% of ED visits were for children in pre-pandemic 2019, which dropped to 6% during the 2020 pandemic period. The CDC included ED visits from hospitals in 47 states (excluding Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming) and captured information from approximately 73% of ED visits in the US.
Delaying Healthcare Visits Worsens Medical Conditions, Reduces Revenues
ED visits are an important referral source for inpatient admissions. Fewer patients in EDs means lost revenue for hospitals. However, one positive aspect of the waning number of ED visits is that it may be keeping patients with non-emergency situations away from emergency departments, thus reducing the overuse of costly ED visits. But healthcare professionals are concerned that individuals also may be avoiding or delaying care when needed, which could worsen medical situations and outcomes.
“We saw people, with COVID-19 and without, coming into the ED who were very ill,” Vik Reddy, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital and Wellstar Windy Hill Hospital in the Atlanta area, told Modern Healthcare. He noted that some patients delayed care for critical non-COVID-19 illnesses. “The good news is that we’re seeing that trend reverse this time around. It was scary in March when we knew that people weren’t coming into the ED for heart attacks.”
The NSSP’s analysis concluded that the report’s findings were subject to at least four limitations:
The number of hospitals reporting to NSSP changes over time as facilities are added or closed. For example, 3,173 hospitals reported data in April of 2019, while 3,467 reported data in April 2020.
Diagnostic categories rely on the use of specific codes, which were missing in 20% of the ED visits reported.
NSSP coverage is not uniform across or within all the participating states.
The analysis is limited only to ED visits and does not take into account patients who did not go to an ED, but instead received treatment in other healthcare environments, such as urgent care clinics.
Additional Studies Show Patients Avoiding Hospital EDs, Delaying Care
Other sources also are reporting similar findings regarding consumer attitudes towards seeking medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey released in May found that about 45% of 2,500 consumers surveyed plan to forgo their annual physical in 2020, due to the pandemic, Modern Healthcare reported.
In addition, an Optum Consumer Pulse Survey released in May found that nearly 20% of 700 surveyed individuals stated they were likely to avoid hospital EDs even if they were showing signs of a heart attack or appendicitis. Another 40% stated they were likely to avoid the ED if they had a cut that required stitches.
The article also states that almost 94 million people have delayed medical care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that 66 million of those individuals needed medical care unrelated to the virus but did not receive it.
These studies and others are showing a pattern. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed when and where patients access healthcare, and if the trend continues, it could have a long-term impact on clinical laboratories. Since fewer people are seeking medical care, fewer laboratory tests are being ordered and performed, which means less work and revenue for the nations’ hospital and independent clinical labs.