La. experiencing lengthy delays in getting COVID-19 test results back

Updated: Jul. 10, 2020 at 9:17 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Getting your test results from a state or federal testing site in Louisiana could take up to 14 days, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

The delays are caused by an increased demand for testing, which has put a strain on the labs tasked with processing them.

“It’s a very big problem,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant state health officer at LDH. “We’ve been communicating very aggressively with our federal partners and it’s going to continue to be an issue. We think we need better access to these testing reagents and other parts of the supply chain to make the testing more reasonable here.”

Not all test results take two weeks to come in though. Dr. Kanter says most are still coming in within a week, but the supply chain problem highlights issues that may require the state to restrict who can be tested.

“If these supply chain issues continue, we may need to go back to rules in place previously where only people who are symptomatic or had a particular high risk contact can get tested,” he said.

Hospitals in Baton Rouge are experiencing delays as well, though nowhere near as long.

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Baton Rouge General and Our Lady of the Lake are experiencing delays of up to a week in some cases. For in-patient testing, both hospitals can turn the tests around in 24 hours.

“I think we can adequately handle the demand now,” said Stephanie Manson, COO of OLOL. “If we continue to grow at this pace, we will get into some shortages and that’s really nationwide, not just here.”

Similar to the restrictions the state is considering, Manson says if testing supplies continue to dwindle, only those who are symptomatic or who have been exposed will be able to get tested.

“If you don’t have symptoms and are otherwise a healthy person with no comorbidities or other medical issues, then if you feel that you’ve maybe had an exposure, then maybe just quarantine and handle it that way,” she said.

Regardless, Dr. Kanter says however long it takes for you to get your test results back, if you have been exposed, you need to quarantine yourself for 14 days.

“If folks think they were exposed, they really do need to quarantine for 14 days. Period. And any test they may get in the middle of that, even if that test is negative, it doesn’t negate the need to quarantine for 14 days,” Dr. Kanter said. “You still have to do it.”

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