The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant appears to have peaked in most parts of the nation. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined this variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Delta variant, it generally causes less severe disease than infection with prior variants. At the beginning of February, it appears the peak of new COVID-19 cases has been reached. As of February 2, 2022, the current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (378,015) decreased 37.6% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (605,735). On February 2, the CDC also reported their prediction that the number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions will likely decrease.
How Is This Trend Impacting Lab Test Volumes?
The XIFIN Lab Volume Index (LVI), a widely used industry benchmark, offers a similar picture. The LVI synthesizes billing volume data into a measurement of testing volumes, relative to a pre-coronavirus testing baseline average.
With the LVI, users can see overall test volume patterns since the pandemic began, drill down to specific time periods, and review test volumes by lab segment, including Pathology, Clinical, Hospital, Molecular, and Pain/Toxicology. The baseline metric equals the pre-pandemic weekly average for January-February 2020. Data is considered representative of the overall industry, based in part on the inclusion of test activity for four out of the top five integrated delivery networks (IDNs) and 10 of the top 12 public laboratories nationwide.
The LVI shows that the peak in COVID-19 testing occurred the week ending January 16, 2022, when COVID-19 testing volume equaled 151% of baseline routine testing volume; COVID testing volumes have since fallen to 60% for the week ending February 6. At the same time, routine testing has remained steady at near pre-pandemic levels, as seen in the graph below.
As expected, based on the recent peak in overall COVID-19 testing, molecular labs exhibited a corresponding peak. Specifically, COVID-19 testing volume at molecular labs the week ending January 16 was 617% of baseline volume, going down to 230% for the week ending February 6, as seen below.
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