COVID-19 test line

SHREVEPORT, La. — Demand for COVID-19 testing is on the rise in Louisiana. 

According to the most recent data available from the Louisiana Department of Health, the seven-day average of tests performed per 10,000 residents was 27.55 on June 24, up from 19.53 on May 24.

While some people in Shreveport are able to arrive at a testing center and get tested in less than an hour, wait times of up to two-and-a-half hours have been reported recently at some community testing sites, according to Greg Sonnenfeld, who oversees testing for Ochsner LSU Health.

Sonnenfeld said while most people receive their test results in two to three days, community test site teams are now telling people they could wait three to four days for their results as the sites regularly reach their 150-person capacity.

Still, Sonnenfeld said things are going smoothly, and Ochsner is hiring an additional testing team for both Shreveport and Monroe.

The wait for results has been longer for some people seeking tests from other providers. Mark Michell was tested at a Shreveport Walmart site on June 22 after one of his coworkers tested positive for COVID-19. He is still waiting for his results.

“I was quoted a 48 to 72-hour turnaround time,” Michell said. 

A week went by, Michell said, before he called Quest Diagnostics, which handles testing for Walmart’s testing sites in Shreveport.

“(I) got through to somebody after an hour-and-a-half on hold, after multiple days of trying, just to be told, ‘We don't know it's taken so long. We didn't get the (test) until like six days after you took it, and we can't guarantee a turnaround time of seven days or more after we get it,” Michell said.

Michell is unable to return to his two jobs until he can show his employers a negative test result. He has not had any symptoms of the virus.

“The frustration it's very real, you know? I've been kind of stuck at home, waiting,” Michell said.

A press release on Quest Diagnostics’ website dated June 25 acknowledged that their labs are receiving more tests than they can handle. The company said it is working to expand its ability to process tests from 115,000 to 150,000 per day, and that results are typically available up to five days after the lab receives the sample. 

Attempts to reach Walmart’s corporate office for comment when unanswered. 

A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health, which processes only a fraction of COVID-19 tests in the state, said turnaround is typically two or three days for results unless the state lab receives a large batch of tests.

The spokesman said batches have been large since testing at nursing homes became mandatory, increasing wait times by one or two days.


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