Florida using new lab to process COVID-19 tests in hopes of getting results faster

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida officials say they’re trying to get people their COVID-19 test results faster. That means one of the biggest names in testing is being asked to take a step back.

“My wife just texted me that she’s got fluid in her lungs,” said Bob Olive Sr.

8 On Your Side spoke with Olive minutes after he learned that his wife, Judy Olive, would not be coming home Tuesday night. The retired Pinellas County nurse is now battling coronavirus in the hospital without her family physically by her side.

“She texted me, she’s scared,” said Olive. “She’s afraid she’s not going to see me again.”

Three members of the Olive family have tested positive. Olive says the results didn’t come fast.

“I just couldn’t understand why Quest took 18 days,” said Olive. “You want to hear about your results as soon as possible.”

Now the Florida Division of Emergency Management is taking a step back from testing giant Quest Diagnostics.

At the Raymond Jame site, one of Hillsborough County’s largest, the state is switching vendors from Quest to a new lab called eTrueNorth.

This is just one of the changes that state officials say they’re making to speed up turnaround times.

Quest Diagnostics sent 8 On Your Side the following statement:

“Quest Diagnostics is proud to have provided more COVID-19 testing to the people of Florida than any other laboratory provider. In recent weeks, soaring demand for COVID-19 testing is outpacing our testing capacity, slowing testing times. Quest is doing everything it can to scale up testing capacity deliver test results more quickly. While we recently discontinued providing testing at some state-run sites, Quest Diagnostics is proud to continue to provide testing to other state run locations as well as to a wide range of groups, including healthcare and government organizations, throughout various locations across Florida. We are also collaborating with other laboratories in the state to expand testing access.”

In the meantime, Olive says, he just wants to see his wife again.

“I told her not to worry about it and she’ll be seeing me,” he said.

Hillsborough County officials sent the following statement about the testing lab transition at Raymond James Stadium:

“Hillsborough County residents who wish to be tested for COVID-19 coronavirus after Saturday, Aug. 1 at Raymond James Stadium or three other specific County public testing locations will be using a different reservation system to make online appointments.

In addition, residents who have reservations to be tested at the Raymond James Stadium location from Wednesday through Saturday (July 29-Aug. 1) are being asked to create a new user account for each person being tested and update their information and appointment time before arriving at the site. The County is sending out communications directly to these appointment-holders with information on how to access the new portal.

The change is a result of the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s switch to a different lab, eTrueNorth, to process samples collected at certain testing sites operated or supported by the state. In Hillsborough, those include public testing sites at Raymond James Stadium, and the County’s Lee Davis, Plant City, and SouthShore community resource centers. This means that residents who wish to be tested at these sites will use the eTrueNorth portal to make online appointments and set up their user accounts. The switch applies to appointments available after Aug. 1.

Residents who wish to be tested at the County’s other locations in Wimauma, Sun City Center, Brandon, and Town ‘N Country will still use the County’s online reservation portal.

Both portals may be accessed at HCFLGov.net/COVIDTesting. To schedule an appointment by phone, call (888) 513-6321.

County emergency officials hope the use of a second lab for processing samples collected locally will speed up the turnaround time for results. Long waits for results have been a nationwide issue as overwhelmed labs work to keep up with heavy demand and increased testing efforts by public and private providers.”


If you are experiencing a testing problem and you would like to share your story, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

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