Slow test results delaying COVID-19 diagnoses

Miya Shay Image
Monday, March 30, 2020
Slow COVID-19 test results delay diagnoses
Results can take up to 14 days to come back. However, another test exists, where results can come back in 48 hours, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow across the country, testing remains the number one problem for people concerned about their health.

In the Greater Houston region, there are both private and public testing, but they run into the same problem: waiting for results.

"It's a common problem," said Vian Nguyen, Chief Medical Officer for Legacy Community Health, which is screening patients at three locations.

"I think the labs are just getting inundated with lots and lots of test samples, and they're not able to process it quickly enough."

The test most private and public testing sites are using involve inserting a swab into a patient's nose, then sending the sample to one of two major labs, Quest, or Labcorp. Within this week, doctors are telling ABC13 that they are waiting 10, sometimes 14 days for results.

"We started doing Labcorp testing on March 13," said Dr. Mary Bowden, a private ENT who offers testing for her patients. Bowden is still waiting for some of those results, but this week, switched to a different test.

Instead of using a swab, the new test involves the patient spitting into a cup. The sample is then sent to MicroGen out of Lubbock, Texas. The key here, is that Dr. Bowden receives results in just 24-48 hours.

The fast results come with a catch. Dr. Bowden is a private physician. MicroGen is not federally contracted with FEMA or other funding resources. Therefore, the tests are not available for free. In fact, they are more expensive than the nasal swab tests. The cash price is $185, and not covered by insurance.

"I believe in testing for all," said Dr. Bowden, who has tested more than 100 patients this week. "As long as we have the capacity, and the lab has the capacity, I'm not restricting it at this point."

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