COVID-19 surge plus overworked labs causing slow turnaround for test results

For some Los Angeles area families, the lack of timely results has created anxiety and isolation.

Leticia Juarez Image
Thursday, January 13, 2022
COVID surge, struggling labs causing slow turnaround for test results
The slow turnaround time is impacting labs all across the country and it's largely due to lack of staff and lab capacity issues.

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- At a Trilab COVID-19 testing site in Loma Linda, free and rapid results are advertised.

It's where Mike Morse of Yucaipa, his fiancée, and her two children made an appointment after experiencing concerning symptoms after the New Year.

"I don't normally get sick, and when I do, it doesn't normally put me down," said Morse. "But this one put me down for a few days."

Morse initially waited to get tested hoping his sickness would pass.

"When I saw them getting it, I thought it was time for us to get something done to make sure we didn't have COVID," he said.

Before the holidays, the average turnaround for COVID test results was one to two days. Morse was told he and his family's results would take 24 to 48 hours.

"He did say, though, 'Would you mind giving us an extra 24 hours because of the high volume?' And we totally understand that," said Morse.

But the third day came and went with no results. Morse said his fiancée, a registered nurse, was able to get a rapid test through her job. Her results came back negative.

It wasn't until Tuesday night - nine days later -that Morse learned he also tested negative for the virus.

According to the American Clinical Laboratory Association, the slow turnaround time impacting labs all across the country is due to multiple factors, including hiring and training new employees, lab capacity set aside to meet other clinical needs, and COVID infections impacting lab staffing.

On Trilab's website, the company stated it was experiencing an increase in testing turnaround due to the omicron variant, cold weather and staff shortages due to COVID infections resulting in longer than normal turnaround times.

California's COVID dashboard shows most labs are experiencing similar issues with results taking longer to process.

For Morse and his family, the lack of timely results created a lot of anxiety and isolation.

"We didn't get to the regular grocery stores the way we would normally go," he said. "We didn't go anywhere ... our neighbors, they're elderly, we didn't talk to them. We told them what was going on. We told them to stay away from us."

Trilab's Loma Linda COVID test site is temporarily shut down at least until Friday, Jan. 14, according to a note posted on the door of a makeshift building.

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a COVID testing site in Paramount on Wednesday to discuss his request for $2.7 billion in new COVID-19 spending as part of his next state budget proposal, which includes more money to improve testing across the state.