DHSS explains long wait times for airport site COVID test results

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 6:24 PM AKDT
Email this link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Some people who are waiting to get their COVID-19 test results back from airport testing sites are starting to get impatient. It's not a good experience having to wait in self-isolation, but according to the Department of Health and Social Services, it's happening to a very small percentage of people.

That doesn't mean only a few have been waiting around to find out if they are positive or negative as DHSS said thousands of tests have come out of airports since testing began there.

Over the last two weeks, DHSS Clinical Pharmacist Coleman Cutchins said more than 6,000 tests have come out of the Ted Stevens International Airport alone.

He explained that while the efficiency of testing has come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic, it's still a complex scientific study. So there's room for some error.

"There's really too many reasons to list," he said, "but I will say that kind of a general recommendation is, if it's been more than about four or five days, I would reach out to whoever did your test collection."

He did list some of the things that could happen to cause a long delay.

The causes can vary between something as simple as somebody dropping a collection sample or something as complicated as system malfunctions.

About a month ago, he said the national software used by hundreds of labs in the country had issues.

Even the way many test sites have to handle the information their collecting can slow the process down Cutchins said.

"Almost no one else sends faxes a whole lot," he said, "and the reason we do that is that we're dealing with patient information and that's a secure method of transfer. So, you know, depending on the site where you get your collection done, they may be dealing entirely with paper, you know, and paper makes everything slower. Where if you go to another site they may be entirely digitally integrated."

It could also just be a bad test. Cutchins said that of the 6,000 tests received from Ted Stevens over the last two weeks seven came back inconclusive, meaning they showed neither a positive or negative result.

For the people that have been experiencing a delay, Cutchins suggests that they reach out to the site that they got tested at.

In the event it was an inconclusive test, it may become necessary to re-test. Cutchins said to be sure to talk to either your doctor or the testing site before you get another test.

Right now, Cutchins said the average wait time for the tests coming out of Ted Stevens is about 60 hours.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.