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COVID-19 surge in Alabama extends wait time for test results

COVID-19 surge in Alabama extends wait time for test results

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COVID-19 in Lee County

An East Alabama Medical Center nurse prepares to test a patient for coronavirus at the drive-through testing center located in Opelika.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A surge in coronavirus cases has overwhelmed Alabama's ability to provide test results within the expected 2- to 3-day turnaround, state health regulators said Friday.

The current turnaround time for most COVID-19 testing performed in Alabama by commercial laboratories and the state laboratory is now averaging about 7 days, the Alabama Department of Public Health said.

The department “recognizes that this is too long and asks for consumers and physicians and other providers to help in making sure that those who are most vulnerable become the focus for testing: the elderly, those in congregate living settings, healthcare personnel, those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and those with underlying medical conditions that place them most at risk,” it said in a news release.

To help ease the turnaround time, the department said employers should not require employees to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to work. In addition, people with symptoms of COVID-19 or known exposure to a positive case should quarantine for 14 days, even with a negative test result. The only exception includes symptomatic patients who have received another diagnosis and tested negative for COVID-19.

Although the percentage of positive tests has started to decline, Alabama is still seeing high numbers of new cases and hospitalizations due to the virus. As of Friday, there were 85,278 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,531 deaths in the state, the department said.

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