Businesses are trying to recover during the pandemic while ensuring the safety of their workers and customers, but two obstacles are slowing their progress: access to coronavirus testing and long delays in receiving results.

Some have found a reliable workaround, writes The New York Times’s Noam Scheiber:

Through a growing number of intermediaries, they can generally obtain test results within one to three days, often by circumventing large national labs like Quest and LabCorp that have experienced backlogs and relying on unused capacity at smaller labs instead.

The intermediaries occupied various corners of the health care galaxy before the pandemic, like offering treatment on behalf of insurance companies or providing employee access to human resources data. Now they are addressing what Rajaie Batniji, an executive at one of the companies, calls “a supply-chain optimization failure.”

“The bottleneck in the crudest terms is: Are you routing tests to processing labs that can process it immediately?” said Dr. Batniji, a physician and co-founder of Collective Health, which administers health plans for employers and created a separate testing and screening product during the pandemic.

The solution often means turning to labs in areas where the spread of the virus is relatively contained, said Daniel Castillo, the chief medical officer of Matrix Medical Network, which is among the companies connecting businesses with laboratories.

“We might send a test across the country — fly it to Maryland from Arizona,” Dr. Castillo told Mr. Scheiber.

But costs can add up, and decisions about testing reveal the economics of a business and the value it places on driving down workplace transmission. Businesses for which an outbreak among employees would be extremely costly are generally the most likely to seek out tests.

“If there is a significant probability of a shutdown, it’s a no-brainer — you’re going to do everything you can privately to stop it,” said Jonathan Kolstad, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

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