Health Committee Chairs React to COVID Testing Delays

(Left) State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Photo Credit: The New York State Senate (Right) Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, Photo Credit: nyassembly.gov
(Left) State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Photo Credit: The New York State Senate (Right) Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, Photo Credit: nyassembly.gov

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea, Midtown) and State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), who chair the Health Committees of their respective houses in the New York State Legislature, recently spoke out about the delays that many who have been tested for COVID-19 have experienced in getting their results.

As the demand for coronavirus tests overwhelms the laboratories that analyze them, many who have been tested have waited as long as two weeks to find their results.

“This is a national problem,” said Gottfried.  “The daily reported cases in the U.S. are triple what they were just a month ago and that means New Yorkers taking COVID tests are competing for lab space with a lot more people than before. The federal government should make lab capacity a national priority, but we have a President who thinks testing creates more cases.”

Rivera agreed, offering additional steps he would take to try to reduce these wait times.

“While I understand that laboratories around the country must be working at capacity, it is definitely alarming that so many New Yorkers are experiencing such lengthy delays in getting their COVID-19 test results,” he said. “It defeats our overall goal which is to identify potential cases promptly, track and isolate them in order to prevent the further spread of this virus. I will be reaching out to stakeholders to properly understand the causes of these significant delays.

“In the meantime, I call on all New Yorkers to continue doing our part and wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash our hands at all times.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics indicated that the FDA had recently approved of specimen pooling for their tests and self-test kits for telemedicine. They also urged healthcare providers to prioritize forwarding tests from people with the highest risk. 

“The pandemic continues to surge across much of the United States, which reported record numbers of new COVID-19 cases during the past week. While we believe our gains in capacity will help improve turnaround times over the next few weeks, testing speed is largely a function of demand. We believe these dynamics affect not only Quest Diagnostics but the entire laboratory industry,” they said.

The spokesperson went on to explain that expanding testing capacity is easier said than done.

“We also want to emphasize that the laboratory industry’s ability to add incremental testing capacity is limited by a range of issues,” they said. “The most significant gating factor we currently face is limits to the testing platforms, the complex machines that perform the technical analysis, as well as reagents, or chemicals, required to perform testing. We appreciate the heroic efforts of our suppliers who are working to service the need for these goods and materials to address the pandemic in the United States and globally.”

City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine (D-Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights, Manhattan Valley) declined to comment.

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