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Sonora Quest says backlog of 17,218 COVID-19 tests will be gone in days

(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX – A day after getting called out by Gov. Doug Ducey for falling behind on tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests, Arizona’s largest testing lab said the logjam was almost cleared.

Sonora Quest Laboratories on Friday documented 17,218 pending diagnostic PCR tests, which detect active coronavirus infections, and said most results were being reported within nine days.

“Sonora Quest, they need to step up their game,” Ducey said during a press conference Thursday when asked about the lab’s testing issues.

The lab said it expects to clear the backlog, which was more than 60,000 tests as recently as July 22, by Sunday and have the capacity to greatly reduce turnaround times next week.

Slow testing has hindered mitigation efforts in Arizona and caused people to miss more work than necessary after possible exposure to the virus.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said Thursday that long turnaround times have reduced the ability to do adequate contact tracing of confirmed cases, a procedure that when done properly can help control the spread of COVID-19.

Another issue is that workplaces often require either a negative test or a 14-day quarantine without symptoms for employees who traveled to high-risk areas or had contact with somebody who later tested positive. Too often, the quarantines are expiring before tests are completed.

Sonora Quest said that is about to change, with ongoing expansion plans about to kick in. The lab said one new testing line was set to begin operations Friday, and another would be running next week.

The state of Arizona contributed $2 million for new testing equipment, and Sonora Quest dedicated $6 million to the expansion.

Sonora Quest said results on the new lines would be reported in 1-3 days starting Monday and 1-2 days by the end of August.

The lab anticipates it will be able to process 21,000 tests a day by Monday, 30,000 by Thursday and 60,000 by the end of August.

That’s behind the goal announced in early July of clearing the backlog and knocking out 35,000 tests a day by Friday.

Arizona’s health department reported 3,212 new coronavirus cases and 68 more deaths on Friday morning, bringing the state’s documented totals to 174,010 COVID-19 infections and 3,694 fatalities.

More than 600,000 of the approximately 900,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests processed in Arizona have been done by Sonora Quest.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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