Testing backlog raises concerns for pending COVID-19 positives

Woman Waits for test results

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Officials continue to increase testing statewide, but a backlog in results concern those working to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As of Friday, July 24, Sonora Quest Laboratories reported more than 54,000 tests pending.

KOLD News 13 has received several complaints from viewers waiting 10 to 14 days, maybe even longer, for their results.

“How are we supposed to reduce the spread if it’s taking so long to get results of their tests?” said Deborah Brookshire, who went to get a test at NextCare Urgent Care in Tucson after showing symptoms. She went to take the test on July 8.

“I believe they said five to ten days,” said Brookshire. “I kept going back and forth, am I okay, am I not okay? I was concerned about giving it to my husband.”

Instead, it was 13 days until Brookshire learned she tested negative. The result came a day after she called Sonora Quest Labs and was told her test would be flagged as a ‘priority.'

The retiree said she had the time and, luckily, wasn’t worried about income. But, that’s not the case for thousands of others in Southern Arizona.

“What about people that have to work? What about people with a family that have other obligations? And they are sitting there waiting,” said Brookshire. “Some of them are going to say... I can’t do this.”

Local health officials are also concerned with the backlog. The delay in results not only hinders contact tracing efforts, but makes any kind of movement in slowing the spread even more difficult.

“We believe if people know they’re positive, it’s probably an additional incentive to stay home as opposed to staying home because, oh I feel poorly,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the Pima County Health Department. “If we cant test people who are asymptomatic and we can’t test them for innumerable reasons they’re unable to isolate. The become nitis of infections and they accelerate community transmissions.”

“From a public heath standpoint, this is a frustrating point because we have a limited time in which we can react, we can do the case investigation and stop further transmission,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The transmission time is 24 to 48 hours.

The state announced Thursday that more resources and extra personnel are being added to try to catch-up on the testing by the end of the month.

“I mean it caused stress for me, but the stress it must cause for parents, people trying to make a living. It’s gotta be much greater,” said Brookshire.

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