Virus testing, tracking still plagued by reporting delays

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FILE - In this March 26, 2020 file photo a member of the Brooklyn Hospital Center COVID-19 testing team calls in the next patient in line in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Having access to quick coronavirus test results will play an important role in resuming sporting events, keeping factories and businesses open, and returning to school in the fall. But an Associated Press survey of selected states found its still taking days in some cases for results to come back despite an increase in the availability of testing across the U.S. Public health experts say testing delays present a major hurdle to reducing infections. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

ATLANTA – As part of the plan to restart its season next month, the NBA is preparing to test hundreds of players, coaches and others for the coronavirus each night inside a “basketball bubble” — a space at the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida, with extra protection against the disease.

Test results will be expected back the next morning, before the day’s practices and games begin. That sort of rapid turnaround is the gold standard for tracking a highly contagious disease that is on the rise again in parts of the country. Yet an Associated Press survey of selected U.S. states shows the benchmark is rarely met for the general public.

Having access to quick test results will play an important role in resuming sporting events, keeping businesses and factories open, and returning to school in the fall. But the AP survey found it sometimes still takes days for results to be returned, despite an increase in the availability of testing across the country.

The situation is even worse in many hot spots around the world, including South Africa, where results have sometimes taken up to 12 days.

Judy Clinco, owner of Catalina In-Home Services in Tucson, Arizona, has had to test about 30 of her 110 staffers, who provide care and assistance to seniors in their homes. They are not able to visit clients until the results are back, which typically takes a week to 10 days.

As many as seven employees have been sidelined at once, Clinco said.

“During that time, the caregiver is not working. We are subsidizing their wages, and it’s a financial burden to the company," she said. "It leaves us with one less caregiver to be on assignment, and that leaves us short-staffed.”

Public health experts say testing delays present a major hurdle to reducing infections and tracking those who have been in close contact with a person who is positive for the virus.