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Public Health: COVID-19 labs holding onto samples, sending incomplete reports

Posted at 4:15 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 20:12:05-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Some patients and hospitals awaiting COVID-19 test results are waiting up to 19 days to hear whether or not they’ve tested positive, according to Kern County Director of Public Health Matt Constantine.

“You can imagine content tracing on something that’s 19 days old is really difficult, not only that, we’re now learning that many of those lab reports are incomplete,” said Constantine.

Constantine spoke to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, explaining why there is such a backlog for test results and contact tracing.

"We’ve actually been told that some labs are holding asymptomatic nonessential worker samples until the turnaround time improves for healthcare workers and first responders, with an indefinite amount of time,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Kern County Public Health Department announced 1,893 new COVID-19 cases in Kern County. Constantine said for each case there is an average of four contacts to trace.

"So if you take 1,893 today and times it by four, that’s how many we’re having to do today,” he said.

It’s not only the number of calls needed that creates a lag for contact tracers. Constantine said some labs are leaving information off reports or sending multiple reports for the same patient, creating confusion among public health and contact tracers.

“We are finding more and more errors. They’ve left out date-of-births. Without D.O.B. you can’t link it to what's going on, so that takes tremendous amounts of time,” he said. "We actually started tracking how many wrong numbers there were on those lab reports.”

The Board of Supervisors approved to extend funding for the CARES Act, providing greater financial assistance to public health and Kern. Constantine said he hopes supervisors and officials will be creative with their use of this money, especially when it comes to COVID-19 testing labs.