Labs Continue Struggling To Meet The Need For Coronavirus Testing

Labs Continue Struggling To Meet The Need For Coronavirus Testing

A recent story from NPR found that doctors and patients in dire need of coronavirus testing finally have one answer for why they have been unable to receive tests after a critical US medical testing company admitted it is facing a bottleneck of more than 115,000 tests.

According to NPR, Quest Diagnostics of Secaucus, New Jersey explained the accumulation happened when a lab in California where testing began became inundated once demand surged.

The company now performs 30,000 tests a day and reduced the number of tests from 160,000 to 115,000 by extending testing at two more facilities and implementing a quicker test at a dozen different sites.

The changes made for managing demand has promoted an average turnaround of up to five days. But Quest says that wait can be reduced to one day for pressing cases like medical workers and critically ill individuals in the hospital.

The company asserts that its labs are operating 24/7 to complete testing as fast as possible and that it is more assured to fulfill the growing need for more tests but that “this crisis is fluid and unpredictable, and so is the demand for COVID-19 testing.”

However, the bottleneck in Quest’s process common issues troubling the country’s COVID-19 testing, which experts state is essential to combating the outbreak.

Quest is not the only company to face delays in its labs. Other major medical testing companies like LabCorp from Burlington, North Carolina are also struggling to keep up with the demand. 

In addition to private companies, hospital, state, local, and public health labs are all dealing with the same issues as well. 

Kelly Wroblewski, from the Association of Public Health Laboratories, acknowledges the problems these dilemmas have on the nation’s public health. “It’s a giant mess. There’s no way around it.”

Obstacles Slowing Testing Processes

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially began testing, it necessitated that the organization oversees all tests. This request caused the first series of delays that have since plagued the testing process.

More problems occurred with CDC test kits were found to be faulty, although the agency solved this issue. Even when the Food and Drug Administration made other tests easier to access, it still wasn’t enough.

The demand for testing soared after the White House overstated the accessibility to coronavirus testing, which has left the country’s labs with a backlog of tests and struggling to stay on top because of staffing and supply shortages.

Lastly, labs are obliged to adhere to a federal mandate that calls for the reporting of all results, which is necessary for following the coronavirus outbreak. Despite this need, the federal government only receives half of the results.

As new versions of tests that give results in minutes instead of days become more accessible, labs around the country will become better equipped to keep up with the demand for COVID-19 testing. However, it is still uncertain how soon these will be issued, or many areas in the country will receive them.


  • Stein, Rob. “Coronavirus Testing Backlogs Continue As Laboratories Struggle To Keep Up With Demand.” NPR, NPR, 3 Apr. 2020,

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Madison Powers
Madison Powers