As COVID-19 testing ramps up in NC, testing results time keeps increasing

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As North Carolina pushes to increase COVID-19 testing, more facilities are reporting longer turnaround times for results.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported a new single-day high Thursday with 31,239 tests completed. In total 1,343,974 COVID-19 tests have been completed across the state.

“In North Carolina, we’re working day and night to increase testing and improve access across the state,” said North Carolina DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

A DHHS spokesperson says turnaround times vary by the laboratory performing the testing and the volume of specimens being tested. 

“Some laboratories currently report a (turnaround time) of 24 to 48 hours while others may take more than a week. We currently see an average of 4 to 7 days across the entire system,” a spokesperson said.

CVS pharmacy initially offered a 2 to 4-day turnaround for its free drive-through COVID-19 testing. That turnaround has slowed to 6-10 days due to “extremely high demand” causing backlogs at partner laboratories, according to their website.

Dr. Mark Tedesco, the Chief Medical Officer at NextCare, says the urgent care clinics are also seeing a delay in return times.

Tedesco said NextCare uses Mako labs to process tests in North Carolina and that 7 to 14-day turnarounds are not unusual due to “lengthy delays.”

“However, we have had reasonable success in our North Carolina market with results returning in 3 to 5 days and often within 48 hours,” he said in an email.

NextCare also offers rapid testing in the state, but only at two clinics in Fayetteville and Gastonia.  

A spokesperson for urgent care clinic, FastMed, says their turnaround times range from 2 to 10 days, depending on when the test was taken and the volume surrounding those time frames.

“The biggest impact right now to turn around times is the increase in the number of people seeking testing which is impacting how quickly labs can turn the results around,” said a spokesperson.

According to a spokesperson, the UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center in Chapel Hill is testing hundreds of patients a day by referral.

The turnaround time is “generally a few days,” but most testing is done through LabCorp and turnaround times are dependent on them, according to a spokesperson.

Wake County will continue to offer free, drive-through testing at Wake County Commons.  Spots are full for Saturday, but there is availability July 20, 21, 23 and 25. Wake County also works with LabCorp.  Their average turnaround time is 5 to 7 days, according to a spokesperson.

Both UNC Health and NextCare said another hurdle to testing is the shortage of testing supplies.

“We have 140 clinics in 10 states and many of our locations in other states have had problems obtaining collection supplies for the send-out testing,” said Tedesco.

A UNC Health spokesperson said testing supplies remains a source of concern, but they are able to meet the need of patients.

Cohen said the state is also concerned about the impact of a potential shortage.

“We need our federal partners to help out state and suppliers get on the same page so that people can get timely test results to protect themselves and their communities,” Cohen said.

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