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Why Some COVID-19 Tests Are Processed Same Day And Others Take Five


ENFIELD, NY (WSKG) - The processing time of COVID-19 tests depends on what's happening that day at Cayuga Medical Systems in Tompkins County.  They often have more tests to process than the lab can manage in a single day.  Plus, in urgent cases, many tests jump to the head of the line.

The system must quickly test anyone undergoing outpatient surgery, all women delivering a baby, and patients discharged to a nursing facility.Dr. Elizabeth Plocharczyk is the Assistant Medical Director of the laboratory at Cayuga Medical Systems."A lot of times they won’t be able to get a bed in a skilled nursing facility unless they have demonstrated a negative COVID test," Plocharczyk said. "So, we need to preserve the capacity for the shorter turnaround time for those patients."Plus, new state requirements have expanded the list of priorities."There’s been a lot more demand on our capacity with the new nursing home mandate," she said.That mandate requires all nursing home staff to be tested twice a week.Overall, they can receive as many as 800 test samples each day at Cayuga Medical Systems.  It has technology to providesame-day results for COVID tests, but the limit is about 200 tests per day.The lab has additional equipment that could also process COVID-19 samples. However, Plocharczyk said there’s a shortage of some materials needed to operate that equipment.So, many of the lower-priority test samples must be sent to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for analysis.  As a result, it might be five days before those patients see their test results.Full disclosure: Cayuga Medical Center is a WSKG Underwriter.