COVID testing is still too slow in the US

A healthcare worker prepares to hand a test kit to a motorist at a drive-in coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center at MTO. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism on August 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The average wait times for coronavirus test results have fallen from four days in April to 2.7 days in September, but results are still too slow for effective contact tracing, according to a new nationwide survey.

“Despite decreased average wait times, a substantial proportion of Americans still endure long waits,” says coauthor Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information.

The survey finds considerable disparities in coronavirus test times. Black respondents wait almost an entire day more than white respondents for their test results (4.4 days versus 3.5 days on average). The average Hispanic respondent waits 4.1 days. White and Asian American respondents wait an average of 3.5 and 3.6 days, respectively, for their results.

Only 56% of respondents who received a positive coronavirus test say they were contacted for contact tracing. Of those who were contacted, 37% say they were contacted by their state government, 28% by their local government, 25% by the hospital, and 8% by a non-profit organization.

Of the respondents, 35% had to wait at least three days between the decision to get a coronavirus test and receiving the test. The average person waits 6.2 days between seeking a test and receiving results.

“Delivering results is just one part of the testing process. Many Americans face difficulties accessing tests in the first place,” says Ognyanova.

The researchers polled 52,329 people across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The data was collected in July, August, and September 2020 across three surveys.

The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States published the survey. The Consortium for is a joint project of Rutgers University, Northeastern University, Harvard University, and Northwestern University.

Source: Rutgers University