Coronavirus testing demands reaching 'unprecedented levels' amid reports of backlog

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Two major U.S. commercial testing labs announced Wednesday coronavirus testing capacity is strained due to high demand following a spike in cases.

In a statement released last week, Quest Diagnostics said orders for COVID-19 tests grew by approximately 50% over the past three weeks.

San Mateo County Geriatrician, Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk was directly impacted.

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"I called Quest and I got a pre-recording saying they have no tests," she said. "Then, I called LabCorp and they said we don't have any tests this morning."

Dr. Landsverk provides services at 30 dementia care facilities across the Bay Area, one of which recently had a COVID-19 outbreak.

"When the labs said they had no tests, I just felt sick," she said. "I knew that people were going to die if we didn't figure out where the disease was."


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Quest and LabCorp are processing COVID-19 tests with a turnaround time of three to five days for the general public. If you're a hospital patient or asymptomatic health care worker, test results are extended to one day.

But, Landsverk couldn't risk waiting for her patients.
"Usually it takes about five to 14 days for the infection to spread," she said.

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Case and point, a recent outbreak at Villa Fontana, a retirement community in San Jose. According to Landsverk, one week ago the facility had one positive COVID-19 case. Now, there are 14 positive cases.

"I think our response to the need for testing has been a failure," Landsverk said.

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Quest Diagnostics hopes to process a goal of 150,000 COVID tests per day. But the lab did make clear this week's testing demands are reaching "unprecedented levels."

LabCorp also released the following statement to ABC7:

"We have steadily increased capacity since the pandemic began and we are not facing a shortage. We are proud to play an important role as part of an industry that is working very hard to expand the availability of testing. As mentioned previously, LabCorp is currently able to perform 130,000 tests for COVID-19 per day and we expect to be able to perform 150,000 in July - this is a reflection of our continued increased capacity."
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