Health service says there is solution for COVID-19 test backlogs ahead of flu season

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Many of you have spent days full of anxiousness and worry wondering if you have the coronavirus. You’ve waited weeks to get your COVID-19 test result back.

Lee Health mentioned Thursday the increased demand is causing a longer wait for results.

Wednesday, Quest Diagnostics warned this flu season, the wait time could get even worse because the demand would be higher.

Some of the people reaching out to WINK News, who’ve had long waits to get their test results, are worried about getting loved ones sick. Others mentioned they couldn’t go back to work without a negative test result. In some cases, that’s taking weeks.

Thursday we’re heard solutions from one testing company about how to get faster results and why it’s important to prepare now for the upcoming flu season.

“It’s your classic bottleneck,” said Justin Bellante, the co-founder and CEO of BioIQ. “And it’s obviously a losing strategy.”

Testing is becoming harder to keep up with.

“I did not see why this should take so long,” said Pauline Murphy, who waited two weeks for results.

More than 3 million Floridians have been tested for COVID-19 since March.

“The thing that I kept saying was, ‘If I was positive, how many people have I been in contact with that now I have to go back two weeks and think about that?’” Murphy explained.

But getting results quickly is even a challenge for health care providers like lee health.

“These longer wait times naturally lead to frustration and anxiety,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, the president and CEO of Lee Health. “Frankly, we’re frustrated too.”

Collection sites and hospitals are sending samples to labs across the state.

“We have a standard clinical lab infrastructure in this country, and it’s very good at one type of function,” Bellante said. “That’s routine testing for heart disease, diabetes and things like this. It’s not made for a pandemic.”

Bellante says Florida Department of Health needs to start working with other states where cases are not surging.

“We should be leveraging labs in the middle of the country that probably have a lot of spare capacity right now because they’re not in a hot spot,” Bellante said.

Bellante says that would get results back much faster. His company was also just approved for a new test that can also tell you if you have the flu, including which strain.

Bellante told us it’s critical to start preparing for flu season now so lab results don’t get even more delayed. He says the faster someone knows what they are sick with, the faster they can get the appropriate treatment.

“Imagine now going into the flu season here,” Bellante said. “You have, you know, three, four, five times the number of people that are symptomatic, and they’re trying to figure out if they have COVID or the flu. So, if you have five times more people that are symptomatic, you may need five times more testing that we have today.”

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