Johnson County test results delayed as labs are 'overwhelmed'

Posted at 11:56 AM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 23:21:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From the moment the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic, there has been a consistent push for increased testing. But now, there’s a backlog of lab results growing by the day.

The Johnson County, Kansas, Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday it is experiencing a delay in getting COVID-19 test results back from its labs.

“Anywhere from about, probably about 1,500 tests, were waiting for results,” said Health Services Division Director Nancy Tausz, of the the Johnson County, Kansas, Health Department.

The Johnson County Health Department is one of the largest in the Kansas City metro and took to Twitter earlier on Wednesday letting residents know of the lag in results. The news comes at time when two of the nation’s widely used testing laboratories announced turnaround times are going to take longer due to an increase in demand.

With Johnson County still testing between 60 and 100 people daily, their backlog is only going to grow.

“It's unfortunate there is such a back log, but again, it's good that there's a lot of testing,” Tausz said. “It’s just unfortunate that the labs are just so inundated with tests that it's taking them longer to get the results back."

With no immediate fix in sight – on the heels of a holiday weekend – and amid new mask mandates popping up across the metro, health officials said they’re concerned.

“We have some statistics that Memorial Day, Father's Day, Mother's Day we had a little bit of a flat line for a week or two and then cases went up and then we had a flat line and then cases went up,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department Spokesperson Bill Snook. “This weekend is pretty scary because we don't know what we're going to be seeing in the next two weeks."

The KCMO Health Department partners with four to five agencies to do testing, and those agencies then partner with 10 to 15 labs to get the results. Snook said all of them are overwhelmed, but only some are experiencing delays. However, the delays are not to the point where labs have began reaching out to the city.

When asked if there was any way this could have been anticipated or prepared for, Tausz said no.

“I think we were all anxiously waiting to get more tests so that we could test more individuals," Tausz said. "So it's just, I think it all happened and everybody got tested about the same time.”

Tausz said the length of delays in receiving test results is unclear.

“Maybe seven to 10, 12, 14... I couldn't tell you,” Tausz said. “I would put out long because I don't know."

Snook advised people to stay home and quarantine ahead of the holiday weekend.

"We are not going to test our way out of this," he said. "The best way we can do it is take social responsibility and just wear a mask."

In a series of tweets, the department said it is still waiting on results from a June 26 testing event and from tests conducted at its Olathe office this week.

The department said the holiday weekend could also delay results.

JCDHE will call anyone with a positive test in order to immediately begin investigating.

Anyone who tests negative will be notified by a letter in the mail.