"I've been waiting 13 days for a result," said Los Gatos resident Ricky Whicker. "Trouble breathing, I've been sleeping 16 hours a day, and I've had achy joints."
Whicker, who is immunocompromised, has been isolating at home since taking a COVID-19 diagnostic test through his medical provider. His mother, Rebekah Davis-Matthews, who is a contact tracer for Santa Clara County, is puzzled by the delay.
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"There's this disparity depending on who you go to," said Davis-Matthews. It's kind of unnerving because you don't know who's out there, who could be infecting you too."
Locally, you're more likely to get a faster turnaround from an academic lab such as Stanford or UCSF. But private and public labs can take longer to process results. In Whicker's case, his doctor went through Quest Diagnostics, which is among the large corporations nationwide that are now competing for the supplies that are needed to detect the virus.
"A turnaround time of a week or more doesn't really help the person being tested because they don't know their status," said county health officer Dr. Sara Cody. "At that point, our ability to make a difference with case investigation and contact tracing has really evaporated."
The delay doesn't just threaten local efforts to contain COVID-19. It can also have other consequences. For Whicker, that means not being able to receive necessary treatment for cystic fibrosis until he receives a negative test result.
"I'm mostly really mentally exhausted from waiting so long," said Whicker. "I'm also just physically exhausted from just growing through all of this."
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