Public health experts are getting concerned as the U.S. is again seeing long delays in COVID-19 test results.
Those on the front lines say it’s a combination of bottlenecks in the testing supply chain as well as an increase in demand for tests that is leading to the backlog for results.
“I think we might face a situation in the next days or week where we might not be able to test the people who really need a test,” said Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician who is the epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center.
“It’s concerning to hear that in places like Arizona or Texas, it may be taking over a week for results to come back,” said Dr. Thomas Tsai, an assistant professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
But it’s not only states that are surging that are seeing test result backlogs – we’re seeing it in Massachusetts, too.
Both Quest and Lab Corp say prior to the end of June, test turnaround time was generally down to 24-48 hours.
Now, on average, it takes four to six days for results.
“Mathematically, it becomes very challenging for us to be able to get our arms around the pandemic and get it under control,” Tsai said.
At Tufts Medical Center, they have not only needed to contract with a 3D printing supplier for swabs, but they’ve had to make the viral transport medium on their own, and very selectively limit the number of patients who can take a rapid-results coronavirus test.
“It’s a ripple effect that is coming from the huge increase in demand over the rest of the country,” said Doron, “and the companies that make these supplies and products not being able to keep up.”
But with results times outside of hospitals stretching out days, the demand for their 24-hour tests have increased exponentially.
“What we are seeing here at the hospital is lines around the corner now because of that,” Doron said.
Both experts NBC10 Boston spoke with agree that to measure success with testing, we need to look at the entire testing process, not just the number of tests being performed.