Wilma Thomas, right, a registered nurse, and Ricky Vargas, a medical assistant, process 50-to-65 patients per day getting COVID-19 tests at AltaMed Health Services in Anaheim on Thursday, July 9, 2020.
Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The surge in U.S. coronavirus cases has labs across the nation falling behind in processing and delivering test results, Quest Diagnostics said Monday, adding that it’s turnaround time for Covid-19 tests is now a week or longer for many patients.
“We attribute this demand primarily to the rapid, continuing spread of COVID-19 infections across the nation but particularly in the South, Southwest and West regions of the country,” Quest said in a statement. The test manufacturer added that it can now perform up to 125,000 tests per day, roughly double its capacity compared with two months ago.
“Despite that dramatic increase, demand for testing is increasing even faster,” the company said. “As a result, our average turnaround time for reporting test results is slightly more than 1 day for our priority 1 patients. However, our average turnaround time for all other populations is 7 or more days.”
Priority one patients include hospital patients, pre-operative patients in acute care settings and symptomatic healthcare workers, the company said.
Quick testing turnaround is crucial to the U.S. response, health officials say, so that infected individuals can be quickly isolated and contact tracers can find potentially exposed people early in their infection. Quest said it is working to ramp up capacity as quickly as possible, but “global supply constraints continue to be an issue.”
The company said it is working on new technology to improve its testing capacity and bring on new partners to more quickly process test results.
“Yet, we want patients and healthcare providers to know that we will not be in a position to reduce our turnaround times as long as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase dramatically across much of the United States,” the company said. “This is not just a Quest issue. The surge in COVID-19 cases affects the laboratory industry as a whole.”