Coronavirus testing delays drop at large diagnostics company

Coronavirus testing delays at Quest Diagnostics, a leading diagnostic information services company, decreased in August as compared to last month, when patients had to wait up to two weeks for results.

The average turnaround time for all patients dropped from a week in late July, to about two to three days by Monday.

“We enter the second week of August with significantly increased testing capacity compared to early summer and are now able to provide up to 150,000 COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests a day compared to 120,000 tests at the beginning of July. We continue to expect to scale up capacity to provide 185,000 tests a day by Labor Day, with further gains possible,” according to a company statement.

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Quest attributed faster turnaround times to growing capacity paired with a plateau in demand — “albeit at a high level,” officials said.

The majority of tests for Priority 1 patients, including hospital patients, pre-operative patients in acute care settings and symptomatic health care workers, will now see results in under a day, but could take up to two days, Quest said. In late July, these patients were waiting more than two days.

More specifically, Quest credited its growing capacity in part to an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 18 that allowed for pooled sample testing. The test allows for four samples to be tested at once, which saves on testing resources.

In July, Kimberly Gorode, a Quest Diagnostics spokeswoman, told Fox News in a statement that the company was offering pooled testing in labs in Chantilly, Va., and Marlborough, Mass. She also noted at the time that Quest was “working to bring it up in additional labs around the United States as quickly as possible.”

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The company’s capacity further benefited following the approval of a new lab technique that accelerated the process of extracting viral RNA from specimens. By late July, six of Quest’s labs in the U.S. could run the new extraction method, including on pooled specimens.

As of Monday, Quest had reported results of about 11.2 million COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests.

“COVID-19 is unpredictable, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely should changing dynamics affecting demand, supplies, and other factors cause our expectations for turnaround time to slip,” Quest wrote in its latest update.

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