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'We were waiting too much time' l Delayed test results can delay treatment for some very sick COVID-19 patients, UT doctor says

Patients who got tested for COVID-19 before coming in used to just wait a couple of days to get their results back, and now they're waiting five to six days.

AUSTIN, Texas — "Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated testing in Travis County had increased 198% in the past month. That was the Hays County increase. The article has been updated to report the Travis County increase of 78%."

With more COVID-19 cases in the Austin area, there’s pressure to get test results back quickly, but delays in getting test results back are impacting how soon some doctors can give sick patients potentially-life saving, experimental treatments.

KVUE spoke to Dr. Kristin Mondy, the chief of infectious diseases at Dell Medical School. She also works at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. She said patients who got tested for COVID-19 before coming in used to just wait a couple of days to get their results back, and now many are having to wait five to six days. That's a concern when doctors are looking to treat those who are very ill because they need those results.

“We had a patient that was pretty ill and we wanted to give them more of our experimental therapy,” said Dr. Mondy. “We have convalescent plasma and we have this drug Remdesivir, but you have to have a confirmed diagnosis to get those therapies. Ultimately, we just did our in-house test to expedite that because we were waiting too much time. We didn't want to delay the therapy, but we in our hospital only have limited numbers of in-house tests.”

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She said getting results back quickly is important for slowing the spread of the virus and making sure those who are positive for COVID-19 know to stay home.

Dr. Mondy attributes the delay to the increase in demand for testing. We did the math and COVID-19 testing in Travis County has increased 78% in a month’s time, from June 7 to July 6. Across the Austin metro, it’s increased by 88%.

A spokesperson for Austin Public Health confirmed an “increased demand for testing plays a role in how long it is taking to receive the results.” According to Austin Public Health, at their testing sites, results are returned within three to five days.

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To avoid this entire issue and with intensive care units already in a tough spot in the area, Dr. Mondy said she would like to see people go back to sheltering in place and only going out if it’s essential, if they can.

“We need to try and stay home as much as possible and do as much as we can from home until we really get this positivity rate down,” said Dr. Mondy.

WATCH: Austin woman speaks out about long wait for COVID-19 test results


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