COVID-19 testing backlog increases, test appointment availability gets further away in some counties

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 09:18:21-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- The state of Florida has now tested more than 2.7 million people since the pandemic started. As that number grows, so does the backlog in results.

“The test itself took 10 days but I hadn’t been notified,” said Alec Arroyo, who was tested for COVID-19 in Pinellas County on June 27.

Demand for COVID-19 testing is hitting record highs across the nation. In Florida, the Department of Health reports more than 80,000 test results sent to patients on Tuesday, but the backlog is getting bigger.

“Today is Day 13, tomorrow will be the 14th day, if you don’t count the day she got the test done,” said Megan Powell, whose daughter was tested for COVID-19 on July 2.

Several private labs that provide the majority of test results for Floridians are now reporting greater delays.

According to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Quest Diagnostics is the number-one private lab providing results for Floridians, and they are now reporting an average wait of “7 or more days.” They say that despite an increase in testing capacity, the demand for testing is increasing even faster.

LabCorp is in second place for private labs providing the most results for Floridians, and they are reporting an average wait of four to six days, which is the wait time after the lab receives the collection kit from the testing site.

“One of the most important things with testing is getting to know really quickly whether you’ve actually been exposed and whether you’re infectious or not, and then allowing us, or even you, to identify the people you’ve been in contact with,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor at USF.

In Hillsborough County, the soonest available testing appointment is nearly two weeks out. In Pinellas County, the Community Health Centers of Pinellas is now canceling certain testing hours due to a “nationwide shortage of testing supplies.”

Dr. Unnasch believes this will be alleviated with the help of antigen tests in the coming weeks.

“We should be in a position where eventually you will go to any urgent care center, sit down, have them take a sample and know within 20 to 30 minutes whether you’re positive or not,” said Dr. Unnasch.

Dr. Unnasch says the antigen tests are cheaper and quicker than our current PCR tests.

The Florida Department of Health is now saying some of Florida’s smaller private labs have not been reporting negative test result data to the state. They’re working with those labs to correct the issue.

MAP: Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in the Tampa Bay area?