Area physicians warn COVID-19 testing delays must be resolved to combat increased transmission

Updated: Jul. 13, 2020 at 6:01 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Area physicians warned Monday that increasing delays on COVID-19 test results pose a significant problem in stopping the spread of the virus locally.

“It hurts everything we are trying to do to get the virus under control,” said Dr. Scott Morris, with Church Health. “Seven to 10 days without knowing? On top of that, it creates enormous anxiety in people.”

Morris said their community testing sites are at capacity. Sicker people are showing up, and then they’re having to wait a week or longer to get results back.

“We just have to get that time down,” he said. “I think everybody would agree that is unacceptable. We need to get back to a 24 to 48-hour turnaround.”

The Shelby County Health Department says lab delays are now widespread.

Church Health uses Memphis-based American Esoteric Laboratories (AEL). Morris and Dr. Steve Threlkeld at Baptist both said Monday, AEL was having trouble getting reagents to perform the added tests.

“There are steps being taken to cut down on that waiting time. It’s very important,” said Threlkeld. “There may be more of a demand, not less of a demand for testing. We certainly hope so. The percentage of positive tests have been higher and higher, and we need to get them down.”

The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reports Nashville stopped using AEL over weeks-long lab delays for more than 300 tests.

WMC Action News 5 asked about the Nashville situation and the testing backlog in Memphis.

A spokesperson for AEL’s parent company pointed WMC Action News 5 to a web statement posted on July 2. The statement did not address the Nashville dispute.

“Sonic Healthcare currently uses multiple platforms and methodologies for COVID-19 testing and will continue to work directly with several technology and vendor partners to secure the necessary supplies to mitigate national reagent supply shortages,” the statement reads.

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