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Fla. lawmakers push for faster COVID-19 test results

A delay in the reporting of positive COVID-19 cases could mean more people have been exposed and don’t even know it.

The need for faster test results is top of mind for Florida lawmakers, from the top down.

“Here’s the thing: I want everybody’s test expedited. I would love to have a 24-hour turnaround,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Tests are behind and the results we’re getting now are from before the social distancing measures went into place,” said Lee County Commission Chairman Brian Hamman.

Kristine Hollingsworth with Florida’s Department of Health in Collier County said the delay isn’t coming from state labs.

“With those state labs and our resources, we’re able to turn around testing within 24 to 48 hours,” she said.

That’s because Florida’s surgeon general ordered state labs to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Quest and LabCorp said it takes them on average four to five days to send out test results, but it can take even longer based on the demand.

“I think that’s just a reality, that we have a crush of this across the country and these commercial labs increase their capability,” DeSantis said.

To speed up the process, DeSantis said he’s looking into more partnerships.

“I was able to have a conversation with the business leader who has a different lab company apart from LabCorp and Quest about other avenues where we can do high input testing.”

Meanwhile, Lee Health, which uses private and public labs, said it takes them anywhere from two to 10 days to get COVID-19 test results back.

To help reduce wait times, Lee Health said it’s working on setting up in-house testing.

See statements from both Lab Corps. and Quest Labs:

Lab Corps

LabCorp is working every second of every day to increase testing capacity.

Turnaround time for results is approximately 4-5 days from the date of pickup of a specimen for testing to the release of the test result. Test results are most typically reported electronically, which generally allows for faster delivery. This timeframe can vary based on demand, the length of time to transport the specimen to LabCorp’s facilities test facilities, and the prioritization of patients (as defined by healthcare authorities, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and HHS).

LabCorp is now performing COVID-19 testing in four of its labs across the country, including Burlington, NC., South Bend, IN., Phoenix, AZ., and Raritan, NJ. We are looking at all possibilities to increase our capacity both within our current testing laboratories and at our other labs.

Quest Labs

Quest Diagnostics has expanded its COVID-19 testing capacity to 25,000 tests per day, significantly higher than initially forecast. In addition, Quest now expects to further expand capacity to 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of this week.

As of March 9, when Quest Diagnostics introduced COVID-19 testing, and the end of the day March 23, the company has performed and reported results for 106,000 COVID-19 tests. About 24,000 of these were performed and reported March 23.

Performing Laboratories

Quest is now performing COVID-19 testing at 12 laboratories in its national network. Three of these laboratories perform both the company’s lab-developed Quest SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR test (which was granted FDA emergency use authorization on March 17) and the highly automated Roche cobas® SARS-CoV-2 Test. These labs are in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Chantilly, VA and Marlborough, Mass.

The other Quest Diagnostics laboratories are performing the highly-automated Roche cobas® SARS-CoV-2 Test are in Dallas, TX; Lenexa, KS; Lewisville, TX; Miami, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Teterboro, NJ; West Hills, CA; and  Wood Dale, IL.

The expansion to the highly-automated in vitro diagnostic (IVD) platform follows Roche’s announcement on March 13 that the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for the test. IVD tests are generally more automated and better suited to high-throughput testing than lab-developed tests.

Capacity

Quest is expanding capacity faster than initially forecast. On March 14, we communicated in our media statement that we anticipate we will have the capacity to perform 10,000 tests a day by the end of this week and 20,000 a day by the end of the month. As of March 23, we have expanded our COVID-19 testing capacity to 25,000 tests per day and expect to further expand capacity to 30,000 tests per day by the end of the week.

Turnaround Time and Prioritization Program

Our current turnaround time is on average 4-5 days, from time of specimen pickup. In some cases, the time to report results may be shorter or longer, depending on demand. However, the experience of providers and patients can vary across the United States. 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.

To help address this issue, we are working with healthcare systems to prioritize testing for in-hospital patients and symptomatic hospital healthcare workers. Hospitals and healthcare systems can submit specimens from these patients to us with a “high priority” designation. As a result, these specimens will be expedited within our standard first in, first out testing process. We are already notifying health systems of ways to submit specimens under these conditions.

Global Supply

Supply for COVID testing and care is a global industry- and government-wide issue. Quest Diagnostics is in constant contact with our suppliers as well as industry and government leaders to address this global supply issue in order to provide as much access to COVID-19 testing as possible.

Patient Service Centers: Our Peace of Mind Program for At-Risk Patients

COVID-19 testing is based on respiratory specimens collected by healthcare providers in their offices or other healthcare settings. We appreciate the efforts of the media to educate the public that we are not accepting individuals suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 at our patient service centers or other phlebotomy sites. Healthcare providers should visit our dedicated COVID-19 Provider site for more information.

On March 21, 2020, we launched our “Peace of Mind” program to give individuals at higher risk of adverse outcomes due to COVID-19 special access to our 2,250 patient service centers across the United States.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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