Most Pittsburgh-region hospitals aren’t seeing an increased lag in Covid-19 test results, although an Allegheny County health official said an extended timeline for some results has occurred due to a crush of testing at the national level.
Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen brought up the lag Tuesday afternoon as the county and the rest of southwestern Pennsylvania see the highest case numbers so far in the pandemic. Another 230 cases were reported Tuesday and 1,449 cases since the beginning of July. There were 1,997 new test results overnight with an 11% positivity rate.
“For a while our tests were returning very quickly, usually within two or three days. I have heard about a lag in results recently,” Bogen said. “I think that’s because the national labs are overwhelmed with the new surge in cases.”
Two major test providers, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, on Wednesday acknowledged increases in testing around the country has led to a longer-than-normal wait time for results. Quest said priority patients’ wait times are still one day but the average turnaround times for all others have gone from 3-5 days to 4-6 days recently. LabCorp said it could take 1-2 days longer for test results to come in.
“In recent weeks, we have seen a steady increase in demand for Covid-19 molecular testing, and we are doing everything we can to continue delivering results in a timely manner while continually increasing testing capacity,” a LabCorp spokeswoman said.
Neither UPMC nor Allegheny Health Network, the region’s two biggest players in health care, have reported any lag in test results. UPMC, which developed its own test and has deployed it across its system by the tens of thousands, generally gets results back within 24-48 hours, said UPMC spokesman Paul Wood.
AHN also has not seen a lag in testing, and most patients receive their results within 3-5 days. It administers about 300 tests per day across its testing sites and its mobile unit but doesn’t include inpatient tests.
“That number has increased notably since the first two weeks of June where we saw roughly 130 tests on average, per day,” said AHN spokeswoman Nikki Buccina.
St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon uses a combination of rapid-result tests in its own lab where the results come within the hour and its partnership with the Mayo Clinic for the bulk of its tests, said Dr. John Sullivan, St. Clair’s chief medical officer. There’s been no lag among St. Clair Hospital patients, but Sullivan said he’s heard in the community of some delays elsewhere.
The partnership with the Mayo Clinic has helped St. Clair maintain its testing turnaround times throughout the pandemic, said Meredith Borst, executive director of strategic initiatives at St. Clair.
“We definitely have seen an increase in the number of tests that have come through, but in our turnaround times, they pretty much are constant,” Borst said.