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Private lab says huge demand is delaying COVID-19 testing turnaround time

Unprecedented demand is delaying test results up to 6 days, according to Quest Diagnostics

An employee from Quest Diagnostics looks inside the COVID-19 virus test collection box at a drive thru for the CVS Pharmacy in Danvers, Mass., Friday, May 15, 2020. CVS has expanded their testing sites. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
An employee from Quest Diagnostics looks inside the COVID-19 virus test collection box at a drive thru for the CVS Pharmacy in Danvers, Mass., Friday, May 15, 2020. CVS has expanded their testing sites. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A private laboratory handling millions of coronavirus tests and antibody tests is currently seeing unprecedented demand which is delaying when people get their results back.

Four months, 3 million confirmed infections and over 130,000 deaths into the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Americans are facing long lines at testing sites in the summer heat or are getting turned away. Others are going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis.

Some sites are running out of kits, while labs are reporting shortages of materials and workers to process the swabs.

Quest Diagnostics, one of the many private labs running COVID-19 tests, says beginning on June 29 the lab chain began seeing a surge in tests. Since then the demand has continued to rise nationwide, particularly in the South, Southwest, and Western regions of the US., which is putting a strain on the company’s capacity.

Currently, test results for priority 1 patients, including hospital patients, people before surgery, and healthcare workers with coronavirus symptoms can still be turned around in one day, according to Quest Diagnostics.

All other tests are taking between four to six days for results, which includes the time to transport a specimen to a Quest Diagnostics laboratory after collecting it at a patient service center or provider site to reporting results.

However, turnaround time can fluctuate with demand and vary by region, according to the lab.

Quest Diagnostics has performed and reported results of approximately 6.6 million COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests and approximately 2.4 million COVID-19 antibody tests. The chain is turning around 120,000 coronavirus tests a day and is planning to increase its capacity to 150,000 throughout the month of July.

Testing has been ramped up nationwide, reaching about 640,000 tests per day on average, up from around 518,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis. Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. are running at over 50,000, breaking records at practically every turn.

More testing tends to lead to more cases found. But in an alarming indicator, the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country, hitting almost 27% in Arizona, 19% in Florida, and 17% in South Carolina.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.