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People waiting up to a week for COVID-19 test results as supplies dwindle

COVID-19 testing logo _ U.S. Army : Miguel Pena
U.S. Army / Miguel Pena

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - After ramping up coronavirus testing, commercial labs are experiencing a potential backlog.

Now some people are having to wait up to a week to get their COVID-19 test results back.

“In May and June, we were doing really well. Typically, (results) were turned around in 24 to 48 hours,” said Maggie Mann, the district director for Southeastern Idaho Public Health.

Wait times for results have increased to 5-7 days, sometimes even longer, according to Mann.

During the statewide shutdown, Idaho ramped up testing capacity. More than 107,000 people have been tested for the virus, according to the states's most recent data.

By the end of June, Idaho was testing nearly 12,000 people a week.

“We have plenty of supplies to collect samples, which is great, but unfortunately, the commercial labs are having a hard time keeping up with the volume,” Mann said.

Commercial labs are running low on "reagent," which is the substance used to create a chemical reaction from the sample collected.

Two of the nation's largest testing labs that serve east Idaho, Quest Diagnostics and Labcorp, said their testing capacity is spreading thin, according to ABC News.

Idaho's state lab is still testing as many people as they can for COVID-19, but Mann said test materials are in short supply all around.

This slowdown of results makes it difficult for public health offices to control the spread, Mann said.

“It does make it challenging to identify those positive cases and then do contact tracing for them, and of course the whole intent behind that is to interrupt the spread of the virus,” Mann said.

People who are symptomatic are asked to self-isolate while they wait for their test results. Those without symptoms should wear a mask and practice social distancing and frequent hand washing, public health officials recommend.

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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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