With an urgency to clear the backlog of COVID-19 tests, the FDA is giving the green light to a major testing company to use a new technique to speed up the process.
In the beginning, testing was scarce and then it ramped up. Now, the time to get results is backing up so much, some people are waiting more than a week to find out if they have the virus.
Christine Hochman’s son just went back to preschool and her husband is an essential worker. So just to be safe, she got tested on July 18 and is still waiting.
“This was actually my first test and I haven’t gotten results yet," she said. "And his first test a few weeks ago, it took him 10 days to get a result."
Her story is becoming common. But on Wednesday, the FDA cleared the way for commercial testing lab Quest Diagnostics to use a new method to cut down testing delays.
“This is a smart move by the FDA to give emergency use authorization to private companies," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF infectious disease specialist. "To say ‘ok, you’re telling me you can do faster testing and ramp it up to 135,000 tests a day? Ok, do it.'”
Gandhi adds that to slow the spread, people need to know if they’re infected as soon as possible so they can quarantine. Otherwise, they could unknowingly pass the virus to others.
“By the time you get the test back it’s immaterial. You’re not even infectious anymore, you’re like out doing what you have to do. So it doesn’t make sense to have tests that take a long time."
Quest Diagnostics, which has 2,200 labs throughout the United States, says the FDA approval “speeds the process of extracting viral RNA from specimens.”
In weeks, the turnaround time should be two to three days for most people. It’s testing rival, Labcorp claims it is already meeting those numbers.
This comes as state health officials are saying people should only get tested if they really need it so the labs don’t get backlogged even more than they are right now.
For many – they just want answers.
“If you got faster results, I feel like you could get faster treatment, and find out who you exposed faster," said Hochman.
For more information on how this could cut testing delays, click here.