It’s taking longer to get coronavirus test results. Here’s why

Coronavirus mobile testing (Associated Press photo)

People awaiting their coronavirus (COVID 19) test results may have to wait a little longer.

Sentara Healthcare said Thursday test results for the coronavirus could take 10 or more days because of a large number of tests being conducted in Virginia and around the county.

Eric Young, director of laboratory services for Sentara Healthcare, said Sentara has done about 3,000 tests throughout its facilities so far. But a majority of those tests are being sent to private labs such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics.

Young said there is a very small percentage of tests being sent to the state lab because the Virginia Department of Health requires patients tested to meet certain criteria, such as travel history and particular symptoms.

People who don’t meet the criteria have to look to private labs for answers which creates a backlog.

Young said even though 10 days is not the average amount of time to receive test results, it’s still possible patients would have to wait that long.

He added that it might seem confusing to people because a patient could be receiving their test results by the end of their quarantine period for 14-days. Even if that’s the case Young said it’s still important to collect the test result data so public health officials know how many people might have been exposed.

“I think there’s probably some public health benefit where if you meet enough criteria to be tested, you’re serving humanity to isolate yourself whether you get the test back or not,” said Dale Gauding, spokesman for Sentara. “So if you had to be tested, you’re serving the greater good.”

Gauding added that Sentara is currently working to have in-house testing available in the first few weeks of April which would cut down on the timeline.

But in the meantime, there has been some confusion on how long patients can expect to receive their coronavirus test results.

State Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey said Wednesday the average time for private labs to process the coronavirus testing kits was 4-6 days and the turnaround for the state labs was 8-12 hours or at the most, 24 hours.

So what is the accurate turnaround time for those kits?

“I can’t speak for the private labs,” Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of General Services, wrote in an email. “Our lab, the DGS Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, reports results to the Virginia Department of Health within 24 hours of receipt of the sample.“

She added the department would not discuss private lab turnaround times and directed WYDaily to the Virginia Department of Health.

Michelle Stoll, spokeswoman for VDH, wrote in an email that Sentara testing kits would be processed through private labs, adding she would check to see what was the accurate turnaround times for the private labs testing.

Rachel Carr, spokeswoman for Quest Diagnostics, emailed an updated news release about the lab’s testing capacity.

The private lab has 12 locations currently processing 25,000 tests per day and expects to process 30,000 per day by the end of this week, according to the news release. The average turnaround time, which include the time the test is received is 4-5 days.

“In some cases, the time to report results may be shorter or longer, depending on demand,” according to the news release. “In some cases, results may not be provided for about a week from specimen pickup; in others, results may be returned within a day or two.”

“Although we are rapidly expanding testing capacity, demand for the testing is growing faster, and we cannot accommodate everyone who wants testing and meet tight turnaround time expectations.”

Quest noted hospitals and health care systems can now mark tests as “high priority” for hospital patients and health care workers.

LabCorp did not immediately respond for comment.

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