Where you test for COVID-19 could determine the wait for results

It’s one thing to get a COVID-19 test, but another to wait to get the results back. There have been a lot of complaints about long wait times, and in Maryland, where your test goes to be processed could make all the difference.

Dr. Clifford Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health, said that, in part because of the recent surge in cases in the South and Southwest, large national laboratories “are under a lot of pressure” as far as results. With more tests comes more strain on those laboratories, and the results are taking longer and longer to be processed.

In Maryland, however, the state laboratories aren’t having the same problem. “Here in the state, we have not seen the same kinds of delays that have been taking part in the large national labs.”
That’s because the state’s labs have built up a fair amount of testing capacity at local hospitals and other in-state labs they have contracted with, he said.

So, how do you know whether your test will go to the state lab or a national one?

“A lot of the testing that’s done at commercial facilities, drugstores or elsewhere, don’t necessarily go to the state lab. They go elsewhere,” said Mitchell. “The labs that are here in state, that we have contracts with, which is where a lot of the vehicle emissions testing sites laboratories go to, they have not been impacted as much as the large national laboratories.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is, while the processing times of the state sites are better than the national labs, they only do a limited number of tests per day, Mitchell said. So you may not be able to get a test as soon as you would like.

His hope is that the national laboratories are working to increase their capacity — but he doesn’t know how long that may take.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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