Why you may have to wait longer for your COVID-19 test results

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — People are waiting longer for COVID-19 test results in South Dakota. Health care facilities are seeing an influx of tests, which in turn is making the processing time take longer.

South Dakota’s Secretary of Health and the Senior Executive Director for Sanford Laboratories say typically in the past, patients could expect to have their test results in about two days. Now, people are waiting around double that time, if not longer.

Rochelle Odenbrett, with Sanford Laboratories, says labs are having to send tests to national reference labs to assist with the increase in test volume.

“So our test volumes had been ranging around the 1,200 to 1,400 tests per day mark. And starting about seven to 10 days ago that jumped to about 2,600 tests per day. So, we were somewhat overwhelmed in our laboratory, more volume than what we could handle on our equipment and with our staffing,” Odenbrett said.

According to Odenbrett, Sanford has a contract with Mayo Clinic Laboratories, so COVID-19 test overflow goes to those facilities.

“Once the sample hit our laboratory was about 35 hours, so by the time you add a little bit of transport time if a sample is coming in from an outside location, it was typically about two days. And then we would get the results back to patients. Right now, they’re waiting upwards of four to five days to get results back because we have to add the travel time to get the sample to Mayo and then the turnaround time from Mayo to get the results out to the patient,” Odenbrett said.

The amount of time you wait for your test results also depends on what testing level you are placed in.

“When your physician or nurse places the order for the COVID test, it places that sample in a priority testing level,” Odenbrett said, “Within our medical record we have the system that divides it out into priority one, priority two and priority three.”

Odenbrett said the priority one patients are people that are in the emergency department or in-patient units of the hospital, so those are tested right away. Priority two are critical patients like nursing homes or health care workers, for example; their results are around 24 hours. Priority three are people who go to the drive-up testing centers or don’t have underlying health concerns.

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon reiterated Odenbrett’s points saying where you get tested impacts how fast you will see your result. Facilities seeing these excess tests are now being overrun, according to Malsam-Rysdon.

“The volume of testing that they’ve been asked to do has just outweighed, kind of outstripped their capacity, so we’ve seen lab results that are going out of state take up to a week and maybe even longer to get the result,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

Malsam-Rysdon said the delay in testing has only been happening for the past week or so.

Dillion Talks was able to get tested before the surge of new tests. Living in Hoven, he says he still had to wait because he got tested elsewhere.

“I first started with my doctor and I asked him how I would go about obtaining the COVID test. He said the hospital I go to; they don’t do COVID testing, or they only do it for critical patients. So, they said, ‘Sanford in Aberdeen; they have a drive-up COVID testing center,’ so I had to call them,” Talks said.

After arriving, Talks said the process was pretty simple, but not enjoyable. He only had to wait two days for his test results, which was the average wait time before the state began having more tests to process.

“We got to the hospital and there were these signs that say testing center, and there was a tent. So you go up to the tent, and then you’d pull up, and then this lady comes out with the test. It was a swab. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience because they had to put it up your nose. They did it for both nostrils,” Talks said.

While Talks’ test came back negative, the state says the delays shouldn’t lead to higher transmission rates because people who do have COVID-19 and are waiting for results should be isolating at home.

Joshua Clayton is South Dakota’s State Epidemiologist. He says delayed testing leads to delayed contact tracing, but if people isolate while waiting, it shouldn’t lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

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