Two weeks of waiting. No results.
That’s what 40-year-old Gainesville resident Yolanda Chiu Phillips experienced after she and her husband got tested for COVID-19 at Carespot Urgent Care, 3925 NW 43rd St., on June 27.
In the time it took for the results to arrive, Phillips said they could have overcome the virus or died. The results came back negative on July 11.
With increasing demand for COVID-19 tests, major labs like Quest Diagnostics are struggling to keep up, said Paul Myers, an administrator at the county health department. The issue isn’t unique to Alachua County. People in the Southern, Southwestern and Western U.S. — all regions with a rise in confirmed cases — are experiencing delays.
When results take more than two days, contact tracing becomes a challenge because people forget where they’ve been and by whom they were surrounded, Myers said. Alachua County Spokesperson Mark Sexton added that the longer the results take, the less relevant the result is for the patient, Sexton said. A patient may have contracted the virus after taking the test.
The Florida Department of Health has worked closely with LabCorp and Quest to process tests from the county’s 20 COVID-19-related facilities, Myers said.
To end the waiting game, commercial labs have added more testing sites and diagnostic machines, which increases testing capacity, Myers said. The time of these additions are not known. The turnaround time from tests administered by the Department of Health dropped from seven to 11 days to within 48 hours, he added. There is a faster turnaround in areas deemed high priority, or those with active outbreaks.
The implementation of the additional sites and machines include two sites in the state from LabCorp, where tests from the county health department are sent for diagnostics.
The county has administered more than 65,000 tests since March, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. About 5.28 percent of tests were positive.
Residents can make appointments for testing in clinics, pharmacies, and drive-thrus, Myers said. The most efficient way to get tested is by calling the county health department at (352)-334-8810 to schedule an appointment for a drive-thru test.