TAMPA, Fla. — For weeks, people have been pushing for more access to coronavirus tests. Now that testing availability is expanding, they’re pushing to get their results back before the virus completely runs its course.
The good news is, at many commercial laboratories around the United States, the backlog is decreasing. The bad news is, people who were tested at drive-thru testing sites in the first few days following opening, are sometimes waiting more than two weeks for their results.
BayCare, one of the companies currently conducting tests in the Tampa Bay area, started drive-thru testing on March 18. This was roughly two weeks after commercial laboratories LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics announced they could run the COVID-19 tests.
Since that time, demand for the test has increased and those labs are trying to keep up with demand, but they seem to be falling short.
BayCare announced Tuesday that people who were tested in the first days following the opening of their drive-up testing sites are the ones stuck in the backlog at commercial laboratories. They said the commercial labs "have not been consistent in addressing backlogs."
In a statement from BayCare they said, “Some of our patients who came to BayCare’s drive-thru collection sites after March 21 have received results even as those tested earlier have not.”
Nicole Metropulos, a local resident, said she got tested at a BayCare testing site on March 19, and she waited 14 days before she finally got a call with her results on April 1.
“I continued to try and follow up, and it got to the point where I was 10 days in, still hadn’t heard anything, and when I’d call and speak to somebody on the BayCare COVID-19 line, they said ‘oh, well it’s taking seven days,’ I’m like, oh, well I’m at 10,” said Metropulos.
Commercial laboratory Quest Diagnostics has reported completion of more than 400,000 COVID-19 tests across the United States, so far. They say their backlog is due to only having one laboratory open when they first started processing tests.
Now, they say they have the ability to run 30,000 tests a day, which has decreased their backlog by nearly 28 percent just in the last week.
Both Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp say the average turnaround time for results continues to be four to five days on average, however, they say those most at risk are a higher priority and more likely to get results back quicker.