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Surge in COVID-19 testing slowing turnaround times in some labs

Covid testing
Posted at 9:53 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 08:39:56-05

NORFOLK, Va. – Employees at the CVS on Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk told News 3 they got a box of the at-home COVID-19 test kits on Monday and were all sold out within three hours.

Pharmacy Manger David Reid said they’re getting more in this Thursday, but CVS and some other pharmacies are limiting the number of kits each customer can buy because of the high demand.

“I went to about 10 pharmacies; nobody had them,” said David Murphy of Norfolk.

Sherri Carrigan is also on the hunt for an at-home COVID test.

“I called Walgreens; I went to Harris Teeter down the street, their pharmacy; they were out,” said the Norfolk resident. “Neither one of those two places know when they’re going to get anymore in, so then I came to Rite Aid.”

Once Carrigan went inside the 21st Street Rite Aid in Norfolk, she was met with a sign that read, “We are out of stock of the home COVID test.”

The pharmacist said they ran out about two weeks ago and is expecting to get more by the end of the week.

News 3 also checked in with Walgreens down the street. They said they quickly sold out of the kits Tuesday morning.

But at-home test kits are not the only hot item flying off shelves in recent weeks. Appointments to get tested are also in high demand.

“There is no availability anywhere in Norfolk or Virginia Beach,” said Carrigan.

Some people said they’ve had to wait more than a week just to schedule an appointment at a pharmacy.

“I got the first appointment I could find, which was yesterday, January 3,” said Murphy. “Otherwise, I had to wait until the middle of January. I looked around at different pharmacies. Some had no appointments at all.”

The turnaround time for getting the results back for PCR tests is being slowed by the surge in testing.

Cathy Andrews and her husband Roger said they feel like prisoners in their own home in Virginia Beach as they wait for results to come back.

They’ve been quarantining since Cathy Andrews said her husband was showing symptoms after being exposed to the virus when he visited family out of town.

“There were no appointments available and when I finally did find one, he went and had the test done, but now it’s been a week and we still have no results from that,” said Cathy Andrews.

But the wait times for both Quest and Labcorp are not that long.

Kim Gorode, a spokesperson for Quest, said its processed 400,000 more tests over the last two weeks compared to the beginning of December.

From Dec. 5, 2021 to Dec. 19, 2021, 1.3 million molecular tests were processed in the lab, compared to 1.7 million molecular tests from Dec. 20, 2021, to Jan. 2, 2022.

Turnaround times at Quest are taking two to three days instead of the typical one day.

“Due to the surge in COVID-19 testing demand, we are experiencing longer than usual turnaround times,” Gorode said in a statement. “Our average turnaround time for COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test results is approximately 2-3 days.”

Labcorp is also seeing a spike in demand due to the holiday season and Omicron variant.

A spokesperson said, “Labcorp has capacity to meet testing needs with our ability to perform 300k PCR tests per day. We’ve performed more than 53 million COVID-19 tests to date. Our average time to result for COVID-19 PCR test results continues to be 1-2 days.”

Related: Williamsburg testing lab overwhelmed as PCR, rapid COVID-19 tests are in high demand

The acting health director with the Norfolk Health Department, Dr. Parham Jaberi, said if you are still waiting on COVID test results and still having symptoms, you should continue to quarantine or isolate even after that recommended time is up.

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