Wait time for COVID-19 tests increasing in Tampa Bay area

As wait times for a COVID-19 test increase, it’s also taking longer for results to get back from the lab. The labs handling the test kits are swamped and trying to catch up with demand.

“While it usually should take about 24 hours to turn these things around, they’ve got days and days of multiple sites coming to them,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson of USF Health. “So it’s taking sometimes five days, sometimes seven days. I’m hearing 10 and 12 days in some cases.”

Tampa Bay has varying degrees of wait times for results. In Pinellas County, it’s four to seven days; a BayCare spokesperson said community drive-thru sites can be up to four days; at CVS Health, turnaround for results can take up to a week; and in Hillsborough County, officials said it can take anywhere from five to 10 days.

Even with more community testing sites popping up, public health experts said the labs processing the tests are at capacity and running behind.

“So it might take a little bit longer in some cases unless and until laboratory companies themselves expand their facilities and get more laboratory testing equipment,” said Wolfson.

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One of the state’s main contractors is Quest Diagnostics. The company said it has run over 6 million COVID-19 test kits nationwide so far. This week, Quest said in a statement that throughout July, “We will continue to ramp up our capacity to reach 150,000 molecular diagnostic tests a day.” That is an increase of 35,000 a day from last month, Quest said.

“It takes time to do those things. They’re not rapid testing kits. They have to be serologically tested and they spin things down. They test each batch,” said Wolfson.

In the meantime, health leaders say protect yourself and others if you have to go out in public.

“If you have to go to work and you went and got tested, mask up. Be conscientious. Don’t take chances,” Wolfson said.

Public health leaders said it also takes more staff at those laboratories to tackle the testing demand in addition to more equipment to run them. Additionally, if you’re symptomatic, doctors said to stay home.