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Surging COVID-19 cases lengthen turnaround time for virus test results

Montgomery, Ala. - The surge of COVID-19 cases in Alabama is putting a strain on testing capabilities. While there has been a recent decline in the percentage of persons who test positive, the overall increase has overwhelmed that state's ability to provide test results within the 2 to 3-day turnaround time needed to expeditiously make quarantine and healthcare decisions.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), the testing “turnaround time” has increased for a number of reasons, including supply chain issues with test reagents, an overall increased demand for tests nationwide, and in some cases, increased numbers of unnecessary tests. It currently takes about 7 days for most in-state testing performed by commercial laboratories and the state laboratory to provide test results. The ADPH said 7 days "is too long" and is asking consumers, physicians and other providers to help focus testing efforts on the state's most vulnerable populations: the elderly, those in congregate living settings, healthcare personnel, those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and those with underlying medical conditions that place them most at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said testing to obtain negative results before an employee is allowed to return to work is not recommended. According to the ADPH, all persons with symptoms and all persons with a known exposure to a COVID-19 positive case should quarantine for at least 14 days. A negative test does not eliminate this requirement for quarantine when the person is a close contact to a COVID-19 positive case.

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