Demand for COVID-19 tests causes long wait times for Oklahomans

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s no secret that demand for COVID-19 testing has been up in Oklahoma, but it’s also leading to longer than usual wait times for results.

Some are reporting waiting as long as three to four days to learn if they’re positive or negative.

Doctors say that can lead to a big problem for many.

“There are so many tests being done now – people standing in lines,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Chief COVID Officer. “Yeah, I think the labs are being strained right now.” 

The rapid spread of the omicron variant is putting a strain on the labs that deliver results.

“There’s people working literally around the clock processing samples, running the tests,” said Sean Bauman, President and CEO of IMMY Labs. 

Bauman says typically they deliver PCR results in less than 24 hours.

Now, they’re averaging a little longer wait time. 

“We went from running about 200 tests per day to we’re running about 4,000 tests a day,” Bauman said. “We put up appointments and they immediately get taken. People are just hitting refresh, refresh, refresh.”

Wait times vary with labs other than IMMY, with some Oklahomans reporting waiting 3-4 days for results.

Curative, the lab for testing at the Bricktown Ballpark and other locations, says, “…our testing sites across Oklahoma have our current median turnaround time of 39.84 hours, which is in the window of 1-2 days upon receipt at our labs. In the past few weeks, our testing sites and labs have seen an increase in the demand for testing but we have been able to scale up efficiently as a company.”

Doctors say they understand the labs are doing the best they can, but also understand the frustration of some waiting longer for results.

It’s not only leading to problems in the workforce and daily life; it’s also impacting how they can treat patients.

“So these new oral medicines, they have to be initiated within five days of treatment,” said Dr. George Monks, with the Oklahoma State Medical Association. “So, with these delayed test results, you’re almost outside that window before you even get started.” 

It’s one of the many reasons doctors say they hope to see more rapid tests available soon.

“So that at the very least you can do a rapid test and if it’s positive, you can be pretty convinced that you do have COVID and if it’s negative, perhaps you’re not as infectious at that point in time,” Bratzler said. 

Meanwhile, Bauman says the labs, state and local health departments are doing the best they can.

“The county health departments and the new public health lab, they’ve actually really stepped up and they’re increasing the amount of testing they can do,” said Bauman. “Be patient, be neighborly, be an Oklahoman that cares about other people.”

IMMY says it could take 24-48 hours to get your results through them.

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department runs its tests through CPL Labs and you can expect your results to take 48-72 hours.

“The state’s public health lab (PHL) has been working diligently to process specimens as they arrive at the lab. With our county health department’s extended hours and weekend clinics, we are putting additional stress on our courier system which is a critical link in the testing chain. In spite of the current unprecedented testing demand, and occasional delays in transit, we continue to average under 60 hours between sample collection and a result being accessed by the patient. If there is an issue with a test from a country health department we encourage people to reach out to that department to check. The lab continues to process on weekends and evenings, making it more efficient to handle this surge.”

Oklahoma State Department of Health

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