A laboratory backlog in COVID-19 test processing that has caused statewide delays in results reporting may be deterring people from getting tests, Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Thursday afternoon.
“There are some people avoiding testing because of the delays and lab processing that we’ve had,” she said. "My fear is that some people may be having symptoms, some even mild, and they don’t get tested because they are dissuaded by turnaround time.”
Piercey said the average wait time for test results in July was eight to nine days. However, a report by The Tennessean says some Tennessee residents had to wait longer than 30 days to receive their results.
The number of tests the state has reported in the past week has declined more than 20 percent from the week prior — from an average of 26,000 per day last week to 20,000 per day this week. That decline means proportionately fewer new cases have been reported while the positivity rate has remained constant. Across the country, testing throughput has dropped off about 3.5 percent.
Piercey said she believes part of that decline may also be due to fewer people getting sick and pointed to data tracked by the health department on the occurrence of COVID-19 symptoms in hospitals. That is beginning to flatten along with statewide hospitalizations.
Tests from individuals exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are being prioritized at processing labs. On Thursday afternoon, Piercey said lab backlogs have eased and labs are typically able to process tests in under three days.
“I want to remind you how critically important it is you get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed and aren’t feeling well,” Piercey said Thursday.