KIRAN: Why are coronavirus test results taking so long?

THE INVESTIGATORS: Why are coronavirus test results taking so long?

LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (WAFB) - It’s a question that’s been asked a lot. Many are wondering why are test results for the new coronavirus taking so long?

While things have somewhat improved in the past two weeks, they’re still not up to a level the state should be, some say.

“I just think it’s taking way, way too long. It shouldn’t have taken that long,” said Tressa McAlister, who is referring to her dad’s test. “His name is Charlie Eddie Wagner. He goes by Eddie. He was town council here in Livingston for eight years. He’s very well-loved and liked.”

It was about four weeks ago when he started feeling bad. After numerous visits to the hospital including a few overnight stays and even being turned away, McAlister said her dad was only getting worse.

“By Monday, he was feeling so bad he could not even feel the bottom of his feet. He is 76 years old, almost 77. He gets up every morning at 4:30, still works and does not come in till dark. He’s very active, so I knew he was sick when I got him to the doctor and he asked for a wheelchair,” said McAlister.

He was admitted into an emergency room in St. Tammany Parish. His daughter was not allowed in, but she clearly remembers the phone call while waiting in the parking lot.

“The nurse did call me and tell me dad did have pneumonia and he was tested for the COVID-19. She told me that anyone my dad had been around for the past week needed to be quarantined for three days, self-quarantine until the results were back,” said McAlister.

Because of a death in the family & being told by doctors he did not have the new coronavirus, the family had recently been to a funeral service.

Now, potentially, all those people may have been exposed.

McAlister says her family was convinced her dad had the virus.

“If you read all the symptoms, he had every symptom there was,” said McAlister.

After the test, McAlister said she was initially told it would take a few days to get results.

“Then they told me that it would be 5 to 7 days, so again we waited a few more days and called back to the hospital and they told me that the lab was running way behind. So, then we were looking at 10 days,” said McAlister.

“It’s just going to be a matter of science catching up,” said East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark.

Dr. Clark said it’s truly been a matter of an unknown virus popping up and suddenly, leaving not just Louisiana, but the country and world scrambling.

“There weren’t a whole lot of laboratories in the country that were capable of even conducting this test and that was at the very beginning of the onset of the pandemic,” said Dr. Clark.

For example, in McAlister’s dad’s case, his labs were sent all the way to Salt Lake City on March 16. Now though, more laboratories are coming on board, but it’s still taking several days if not over a week to get results.

KIRAN: Have you had any cases where someone has gotten either really sick or even died before the results have come back that they were positive?

CLARK: Yes, we have. Both cases that have been in hospital deaths, meaning they were sick, went to the hospital, got tested and died before the tests come back, which since then we have discovered the results.

With people not knowing for days whether they’re positive, they may still be going out and about exposing others and spreading it further.

Dr. Clark said another reason for the delay in results is there is no quick test for this virus.

“This isn’t a rapid test. Right now, the last several years, you have been able to go to the emergency room to your primary care doctor’s office and get a rapid flu test which is called the Influenza. That is done basically in 20 to 30 minutes. We do not have that developed for the coronavirus at this point,” said Dr. Clark.

“We would like to get them faster,” said Governor John Bel Edwards.

Even the governor said everyone would like a more efficient system.

For example, he said South Korea was able to ramp up their testing much quicker and did it with much larger numbers. Anyone identified as a positive was told to stay home and helped prevent the spread.

“Our testing is slower, so we are trying to get people to stay home who have not been told that they have the virus. That makes it hard, but it is essential,” said Gov. Edwards.

Governor Edwards added Louisiana has the fifth-highest amount of testing per capita in the country.

More testing would give state health officials a truer sense of how bad COVID-19 really is in the Bayou State and perhaps people would make residents the “stay at home” order more seriously.

In Mr. Eddie Wagner’s case, ten days later, they finally got the results. Thankfully, he was negative.

“It’s been very nerve-racking. Like I said, we have not been able to see family. Because of going to the services, we exposed a lot of family and friends that have not been able to work for these past ten days,” said McAlister.

She for one said the turnaround period really needs to improve.

“I don’t want to see other families go through this 10-day period or longer, some people are saying. No one should have to go through it,” said McAlister.

Until science can develop a rapid test and vaccine, the truth is, everyone is playing catch up.

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