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Wait-times become the newest issue as COVID-19 cases spike in two-state

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 2:33 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We're seeing more testing sites pop up in our South Carolina counties, and in Augusta, just yesterday, 600 people were scheduled for testing at AU Health.

But just how is it taking for folks to get those results?

When you see long testing lines, you might assume it's going to take longer to get results back. In some cases, that's true. In others, it's not changing much at all.

We've heard the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is testing, but testing is really only as good as its turnaround time.

"Our concern is the length of time it's taking to get the results in as more and more people are tested," Carolyn Emanuel-McClain, chief executive officer of Rural Health Services, said.

Emanuel-McClain says Rural Health Services tested hundreds over the past couple days, but they won't get their tests back for six or seven days.

"There's backlogs in the labs," Emanuel-McClain said. "There's alternative labs coming up that DHEC has authorized to contract out to help process those results."

Rural Health Services is trying to partner with one of those labs to decrease the turnaround to 3 to 4 days, but some across the two-state are seeing even longer times.

"Trying to backtrack and figure out who was exposed 10 to 14 days ago, contact tracing at that point is almost useless," Dr. Phillip Coule, AU Health's chief medical officer, said.

Coule says AU Health, despite testing more than ever, is getting results back within 24 hours -- only because the tests stay within their own labs. But the drive-thru testing isn’t foolproof -- it’s outdoors.

"We very soon will be announcing a change in location for that," Coule said. "That will be much less dependent upon the weather, so that we won't end up with those disruptions."

For now, they're having to reschedule delayed appointments. As many wait, it makes all the safety steps that much more important.

Rural Health Services says they are working to set up free testing a couple days a week at their offices. They plan to announce the details soon.

Health officials want to remind everyone that while you are waiting for test results, it’s especially important to social distance and wear a mask.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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