With thousands of tests for the novel coronavirus being conducted daily throughout the state and country, some people in West Volusia and elsewhere have been forced to wait weeks to get their results.
And with some employers requiring workers to show a negative test or quarantine themselves for two weeks before returning to work, the backlog has put some people’s lives on an unwelcome pause.
On top of the delays, a select few people might not see results at all, due to a mishap involving one of the labs AdventHealth was using to get test results.
One of many examples, Lisa Lind of DeLeon Springs got tested May 2 after having possible COVID-19 symptoms.
“I had weird symptoms about two weeks before developing a fever,” she said. “It kind of felt like my throat was constricting. It was just weird.”
Part of the reason she wanted to be tested is because her husband works in a public-facing job.
Lind went to an AdventHealth clinic in DeLand, where she was told it would be three to five days before she got results — possibly sooner if she downloaded AdventHealth’s app.
Unfortunately, the app, which asks several personal questions to verify someone’s identity, locked her out, and she wasn’t hearing much from the clinic’s staff, she said. In the meantime, her husband was missing work, in case he was a risk to the public.
“I called them probably five times, because my husband stayed home from work. Each time, I was assured I’d get my phone call,” she said. “Then they said up to 12 days to get a result.”
Those 12 days have come and gone, and Lind still hasn’t heard anything about her results. Given the long amount of time that’s elapsed and the fact that she no longer has symptoms, Lind is ready to give up on her COVID-19 testing saga.
“I’m putting it behind me,” she said.
Meanwhile, AdventHealth has begun to notify 25,000 people in Central Florida that they won’t be getting results.
“To meet the unprecedented demand for COVID-19 testing, we rely on nationally accredited third-party labs to assist us. Unfortunately, one of these labs processing a significant number of our public tests has been unable to fulfill its obligation,” reads a May 16 statement AdventHealth directed The Beacon to after being asked about the situation.
AdventHealth said they have terminated their contract with the lab. Individuals whose test results were affected by the mishap fall into two categories: those whose results were processed but were deemed unreliable, and those whose samples are at the lab as part of a backlog that was never tested.
The lab, which is based in Orlando but has its lab physically in Texas, disputes the hospital chain’s accusation of unreliability, according to an Orlando Sentinel report.
AdventHealth said individuals who have symptoms may require retesting.
This writer, in fact, was among those affected — something he learned after waiting about two weeks for results.
Still, state health officials say they are working to expand testing and processing capacity.
In Volusia County, between 22 and 518 COVID-19 tests in Volusia County were reported each day to the Florida Department of Health over the past two weeks.
“Florida recently partnered with private laboratories around the state to expand COVID-19 laboratory testing capacity,” said Jason Mahon, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “This partnership will increase the number of tests conducted each day and ensure Floridians receive the critical health information they need in a timely manner.”
The Florida Department of Health and the Florida Division of Emergency Management have partnered to develop a “joint information center,” which puts out information about the disease and responds to media inquiries.
While hundreds of independent labs have reported results to the Health Department, the lion’s share of testing has been done through large companies like Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, and labs connected with the state’s various hospital chains.
One new testing site has opened in DeLand. The Florida Department of Health is offering tests to DeLand’s underserved Spring Hill neighborhood 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, May 21, through Saturday, May 23, (or while supplies last). The nasal-swab tests will be performed outside Spring Hill Park, 971 S. Thompson Ave.
The test is free, and people do not need to have symptoms to be tested.
Standard COVID-19 tests, which check to see if a person currently has the disease, shouldn’t be confused with antibody testing, which can help tell if a person has had the virus in the past.
Staff at Family Health Source, which has been offering antibody tests at the Volusia County Fairgrounds for several weeks, say their testing and lab-processing experiences have been more positive.
“The antibody testing comes back typically within 24 hours — in some cases, 48 hours,” said Laurie Asbury, CEO of Family Health Source. “We are using both LabCorp and Quest [Diagnostics], and haven't had any issues.”
The group has also been able to make its operations more streamlined, by adding more phlebotomists and other staff, reducing wait times from several hours on the first couple of days of testing to mere minutes.
“It's park, walk in, and walk straight on through,” she said. “It might take you 10 minutes.”