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Not everyone gets quick COVID-19 test results

Coronavirus (Image provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

SARANAC LAKE — People across the North Country continue to get tested for COVID-19 as the region gradually moves toward the third phase of reopening, but not everyone is getting results back quickly.

Local hospitals have ramped up testing capacity in the last few weeks, thanks to deliveries of testing materials from the state and other sources, such as Saranac Lake’s Trudeau Institute. It also helped that testing eligibility requirements were expanded to include everyone, after months of stringent restrictions on who could be tested.

As that capacity has expanded, there have been some complications.

Both private and state labs have been inundated with samples from around the state, prompting at least one lab — the Wadsworth Center in Albany, which processes many tests from North Country hospitals — to begin turning away samples last month and encourage health providers to limit the number of tests they send for processing. Private lab networks, such as Labcorp, also reported backlogs early on in the pandemic, but they later announced they had cleared that backlog, according to the New York Times.

Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake, Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone and Elizabethtown Community Hospital are all reporting turnaround times for COVID-19 test results of anywhere between 45 minutes and 72 hours, depending on where the test is processed and whether it is for a person who works in health care.

But for some people, the wait has been much longer.

Bob Price, 75, is an Adirondack second homeowner whose primary residence is in South Carolina. When he arrived here late last month, he said he immediately got tested for COVID-19 at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. He wasn’t feeling sick and didn’t have any symptoms, but he said he wanted to get tested to put local residents’ minds at ease.

“The testing went fine,” he said. “They were blowing through people there.”

Price quarantined in his home as he awaited the results of his test. One day went by. Then another, and another. A few days passed, and he still didn’t have his results back. When he called the hospital to check in on his results, he said he was told the delay in getting results was common. There was no estimate for when his result may be available.

So, with no food left in his home and 10 days in quarantine waiting for results, he ventured outside.

“At this rate, I’ve been here for the summer,” he said. “I’ve been out and about, rigorously social distancing.”

As of Monday, it had been around 13 days since Price had been tested, and he said he still hasn’t received his results.

Adirondack Health spokesman Matt Scollin said “the majority of results” come back from the lab within three days, though hospital staff then have to go through lists of people who were tested and individually share results after that. Because of medical privacy laws, results can’t be shared through a voicemail — further extending the process for people who don’t pick up their phones.

Even the most recent batches of tests to Wadsworth, the lab that reported being overwhelmed, came back between 24 and 48 hours, Scollin said.

People who have gotten tested for COVID-19 at Adirondack Health and have waited more than seven days for results are encouraged to call the hospital’s COVID-19 clinic at 518-897-2462, according to Scollin.

More than 20.2 million COVID-19 tests had been processed across the country as of Monday, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, a volunteer data tracking organization from The Atlantic magazine. Of those tests processed, more than 2.4 million were from New York state. Including both COVID-19 tests and coronavirus antibody tests, 6,550 tests from Franklin County had been processed since March, as of Monday; 6,444 tests from Essex County have been processed in that same time frame.

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