AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The 7-day positivity rate in Texas reached almost 21% on August 9, a key metric Gov. Greg Abbott has frequently referenced while monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic.
It measures how many people are testing positive out of the total amount of tests administered, which Gov. Abbott said should ideally remain below 10%. At the same time, testing across the state has decreased nearly 53% over the last two weeks.
On August 10, the state reported 29,145 tests a day. On July 27, two weeks prior, the state reported 61,907 tests. In recent weeks, testing in the private sector has experienced major delays in turnaround times.
When Katie Hooks and her boyfriend got tested for COVID-19, they were told their results would come in between four and six days. Seventeen days later, their experience is part of a broader problem of delayed test results across Texas.
The pair got tested July 16.
On Aug. 2, they finally found out their results were negative. They spent two and a half weeks self-isolating as CVS Health sent the tests to a lab.
Their initial results estimate continuously changing, Hooks was frustrated.
“On the 11th day, I called again and they said, ‘Oh, we’re seeing it could be up to 20,’” Hooks recalled of her conversation with CVS. Seventeen days for her test results to come back meant impacts on other aspects of her life.
“It affects our family life and affects our work life,” she said. “Luckily, we came out the other end of it without any issue, but had we gotten a positive, I mean, I just don’t even know how the unraveling of that would have taken place because it had taken place so long ago.”
CVS Health responded to a Nexstar Media Group inquiry about test result delays with a statement that explained the tests are run through third-party labs responsible for processing and delivering results, which get communicated back to patients through CVS Health.
“The increase in cases of COVID-19 in certain areas of the country that began in late June is causing extremely high demand for tests across the board,” spokesperson Monica Prinzing wrote in an emailed statement. “This has caused backlogs for one of our lab partners, resulting in delayed processing of patient samples.”
“As a result, in certain areas of the country serviced by this lab partner, it has been taking 6-10 days and sometimes longer, for people to receive their results,” Prinzing wrote.
“When we were made aware of the lab backlog, we rapidly took steps to help reduce the number of tests that were being sent to the impacted lab and also expanded our network by adding new third-party lab partners,” Prinzing explained.
“Having put these steps in place we have begun to see improvements in turnaround time for the delivery of test results and expect to see continued improvement,” she added. “As the initial lab continues to work hard to address the remaining backlog of tests, we are now expecting that the majority of test results will generally be available within 3-7 days.”
These issues are not exclusive to independent companies.
“We are in the process of working with labs in the state of Texas,” Abbott said in Beaumont. “Whether with labs in different locations in the state of Texas that will provide more robust quicker turnaround, and higher volume of tests.”
A spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management said demand for testing seems to be down, explaining that the state is still offering the same amount of tests it has in weeks past, but not as many Texans are showing up to testing sites. The spokesperson said the state’s turnaround time for test results has remained between three and four days.
TDEM has a list of testing sites on its website, covidtest.tdem.texas.gov.