Coronavirus testing delays continue at commercial labs as cases increase

Louisiana

Doctor says it’s affecting his ability to practice medicine: “I feel like a meteorologist who is trying to predict the weather based on radar from two weeks ago.”

NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) — If you’ve gotten a coronavirus test lately, how long did it take your test results to come back? We’re hearing from some about long wait times lately.

 Infectious disease specialist Dr. Brobson Lutz says test results are taking a long time because of the high demand on commercial labs like Quest and Labcorp.

“The number of tests that these labs get has just grown exponentially, and they don’t have the equipment, the solutions, the technicians to handle all of them,” said Dr. Brobson Lutz.

One patient has been waiting for results for 14 days. 

Dr. Lutz says that’s affecting his ability to practice medicine. 

“Well I feel like a meteorologist who is trying to predict the weather based on radar from two weeks ago.”

The Louisiana Department of Health agrees that is “unacceptably long” and says the backlog is from the high demand nationwide. Dr. Lutz says not only does that affect patients, treatment and quarantining but it deprives the city and state of important information. 

“If I were a decision maker that had anything to do with when do we open schools in the community, I would want the most current data. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with data that was two weeks old and stale,” he said. 

When schools open and students and athletes start getting tested more frequently, will this add to the backlog? Dr. Lutz says those using hospital labs get a quick turnaround in results but those may not be as accurate as the commercial labs. And when home test kits start being used that presents problems too.

“Home testing kits will allow people to get answers quick, just like a home pregnancy test, but again with a home testing kit the public health authorities lose all their data,” explained Dr. Lutz.

And when test results do come from labs, in order to get a more realistic picture of community spread, Dr. Lutz says the state now has to sort them all out, not by the date the results came back, but by when the nose swab was actually taken. 

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