West Virginia officials say lag for coronavirus testing results may be a week

Gov. Jim Justice and other state leaders expressed frustration today over how long it takes to turn over results once a coronavirus test has been conducted.

“We all know the fact that if you don’t get a report back within 10 days, you know, it’s almost like well, why do the report?” Justice said during a briefing Monday about West Virginia’s covid situation.

Bill Crouch

The lag could be seven days, said Bill Crouch, secretary of West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources.

“We’re very concerned about the delay in getting results from our testing labs,” Crouch said, noting that some national labs are experiencing delays of seven to 14 days.

Even local labs are looking at seven days right now, Crouch said.

“Sometimes a delay of seven days, 10 days really makes it almost useless to do the test,” he said. “We have to get quick results to be able to do contact tracing.”

Ayne Amjad

State Health Officer Ayne Amjad agreed: “The delay in testing is an issue.”

She said people experiencing symptoms should quarantine while they are waiting for their test results, but also acknowledged that has been a problem with some employers.

Nationally, news outlets have been reporting waits of up to two weeks for coronavirus test results.

That’s because of the sheer number of people being tested along with shortages of supplies for laboratories.

Alex Azar, the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, on Sunday pointed at states for lack of preparation to assure efficient testing turnaround.

Azar described a goal of rapid, point-of-care testing results but said public health labs are running at 58 percent capacity right now.

But he said states need to use federal funding on hand to bolster labs.

“Well, we’re certainly talking to the governors and telling them they’ve got to use this money to get up and running and get that happening. We’ve made available — we’re meeting every need they’ve got for supplies, for testing,” Azar said.

“But at the end of the day, our governors have to take that initiative and get their public health labs fully up and running even as we improve testing through, say, our commercial labs.

Crouch said West Virginia is working to improve testing capacity.

“We’re working hard to try to develop more testing capacity at the state level,” he said. “We’re looking at the state lab and trying to acquire additional equipment and look at staffing and trying to expand our testing in-house.”

“So we really would like to be self-sufficient as much as possible so we don’t rely on national labs that are backed up from testing for other states.”

Justice echoed the goal of self-sufficiency for testing in West Virginia.

“Let’s just be fair again. This situation nationwide is a problem. It’s a problem. That’s just all there is to it,” he said.

“And a lot of our national labs are being pushed to the limit because you’re getting so much of a surge that is happening, especially in the southern states or wherever it may be, that it is taking capacity away from all kinds of different places.”

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