Surges in COVID-19 testing have slowed down the turnaround time for results at some private labs, according to a regional medical director for the Department of State Health Services.
Dr. Emilie Prot, the regional medical director for Public Health Region 11, said health care providers are reporting an average turnaround time of 10 days for test results from private labs.
“We’ve received several reports from local physicians, even hospitals who have used some of our national laboratories — CPL, Quest, and LabCorp — that are having backlogs at the national level,” Prot said during a weekly news conference call on Friday. “This comes with a surge in testing requests across the country, not just our area.”
Prot clarified that she had not heard this directly from those private labs but simply had physicians call her to report the delays in testing.
She recalled a situation with a nursing home resident who had been discharged from the hospital. The nursing home staff were cohorting that resident in a step down unit, essentially isolating the patient from the general population residents.
There, the patient was tested for COVID-19 to find out if they had been infected during their stay at the hospital.
“They had not received any result back and it was the 15th day,” Prot said. “Given that the virus is a 14-day incubation period, and if the person had not exhibited any symptoms, I told her it was definitely reasonable to take that patient out of their step down, or isolation, unit and put them in the general population.”
“But it’s been 10 days on average from those national labs, from what has been reported to me,” Prot added.
Testing administered through the state, however, was still average about a three-to-four day turnaround time, according to Prot, which is aided in part with DSHS’s partnership with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“Speaking to UTRGV, there’s no backlog with our UTRGV lab so that is very good news that we have some capacity locally,” she said. “They have capacity at around 1,500.”
Testing, overall, continues to rise and on Friday, Hidalgo County officials reported the county had surpassed 70,000 tests.
Specifically, Hidalgo County reported a total of 72,521 tests had been administered as of Friday while Cameron County reported a total of 51,843 tests.
With regard to those mobile testing sites run by the state, Prot said the state would be phasing out the use of the Texas National Guard.
Those sites are currently operated by DSHS, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Military Department but they will instead be transitioning from military teams to contracted groups, Prot said.
“(They) are still going to be continuing to do testing in our communities with a target on rural communities where there’s not as may testing opportunities,” she said.
If test results do come back positive, Prot reminded that everyone in the positive person’s household must remain in quarantine.
“Everone’s in isolation together, that means that if others in the household can’t separate into different bedrooms, if you’re all sharing one bathroom, everyone’s at the exposed risk and they need to all isolate together,” Prot said.
She said people from one residence can be released from isolation only after the last person is free of symptoms because the first person who tested positive could have given it to someone else, delaying the release of the entire family.
“So it’s very important — if you have a positive household member, everyone’s in isolation not just that person,” she said.