17848 DOH Testing Lab

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.

As COVID-19 testing increases and cases across the country surge, some labs are getting backlogged and the problem is affecting Lancaster County.

Several organizations here say it's taking longer to get results than it used to, and that poses increased health risks.

As Kaiser Health News reported, delays “mean patients and their physicians don't have information necessary to know whether to change their behavior.”

“Health experts advise people to act as if they have COVID-19 while waiting — meaning to self-quarantine and limit exposure to others,” it reported, noting that becomes harder if people have to wait a week or more for results.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health spokeswoman Mary Ann Eckard said tests going to its lab partner are taking three to four days. That's up from mid-June, when the system said turnaround was two days or less.

WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital spokeswoman Cindy Stauffer said in an email that a national lab that's one of its resources for COVID-19 testing has recently “experienced delays due to a significant increase in test volumes from across the country.”

“While most tests return results within seven to 10 days, some patients may experience longer delays,” she wrote. “We are working with our lab partner to resolve these issues.”

When it started offering drive-through testing by appointment at two of its Lancaster County stores in late May, CVS Health said results would be available in about three days. Now its website says, “Due to extremely high demand, please allow 5-7 days for results.”

A statement from CVS said, “As demand for tests has increased, we've seen test result turnaround times vary due to temporary processing capacity limitations with our lab partners, which they are working to address.”

UPMC Lititz spokeswoman Kelly McCall said in an email that its testing turnaround time “has consistently averaged two to three days for outpatient testing.”

The United States has being experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, with the number of new cases rising in many states, including Pennsylvania.


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