Why are Floridians waiting up to 11 days for coronavirus test results?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For weeks, 8 On Your Side has been digging into problems with Florida’s system of coronavirus testing: from a shortage of test kits to a lack of personal protective equipment. Right now, one of the biggest problems may be a lack of labs to process the results.

8 On Your Side is hearing from many viewers who say they’re having to wait nearly two weeks for results.

“I was still feeling sick, I still am having trouble breathing,” said Roy Karpp. “Am I going to wake up in the morning unable to breathe and need to be rushed to the hospital?”

Karpp tells 8 On Your Side he went to a BayCare drive-thru site in Pasco County on March 19. His life has been on hold since.

As of March 30, the 57-year-old still doesn’t know if he has the coronavirus.

8 On Your Side is digging into what happens after you get swabbed.

After you’re swabbed, your test – like Mr. Karpp’s – could be processed at a commercial lab like LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics.

BayCare sent 8 On Your Side a statement which reads in part:

Like other providers, BayCare has been able to develop some in-house processing capacity but it is very limited, about 170 a day because we are having difficulty obtaining supplies…We prioritize in-house processing for patients in our hospitals where quick results help us more effectively treat this acutely ill population. Otherwise, we are reliant on commercial lab processing. Like our patients and other health care providers, BayCare has been disappointed to see wait times increasing daily, often to more than a week.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about wait times at a news conference on Monday afternoon.

“There’s only so many commercial labs,” he explained. “If you run one through the machine, then the machine is taken. So they fill it up, they run it all through, the end result is it just takes time.”

But what about the public health labs? Florida has just three. According to a study by WalletHub, that’s the lowest number of public health labs, per capita, in the country.

8 On Your Side wanted to know the public health lab testing capacity to see if that’s partially causing delays.

The Florida State Emergency Operations Center didn’t provide any data. Instead, they released a statement about their partnership with private labs.

The statement from the Joint Information Center on COVID-19 for the State of Florida reads in part:

Expansion to private laboratories changes the COVID-19 testing landscape in Florida. Private laboratories are running tests as they receive swab samples from practitioners. Testing and reporting times vary among commercial and DOH laboratories.

The problem is health care providers, like BayCare, that rely on the private labs say they’re seeing wait times increase daily.

8 On Your Side will continue to report on this problem.

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