Federally funded labs are taking much too long to return COVID-19 test results and the county will soon take over lab responsibility to speed up turnaround time, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says.
He said the disparities in results are unacceptable.
“You can’t have a situation where you if you go to a test site in the north it takes two days and you go to a test site in the south it takes eight days,” Jenkins said.
Federal partners have offered to extend testing resources, but Jenkins said the labs the government requires take too long. He said the lag in test results hinder effective contact tracing. So instead, the county will take it over themselves.
“If you’re waiting around 10 days for a test and going to work and being around your other family members, you’re spreading it,” Jenkins said. “And then, by the time we trace that person, they can’t remember everyone they were around.”
Jenkins said the city and county would bear the cost of hiring a private lab. He said 1,000 tests will cost roughly $100,000 per day.
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“We can no longer wait on our state or federal partners to get us what we need, we’re going to have to get it ourselves,” he said. “We have the machines and the people to do 1,500 more tests than we’re currently doing at Parkland and nearly that amount at UT Southwestern.”
Jenkins said equity in testing would give the county a better shot at battling the COVID-19 spike.
During the transition, the testing site at Ellis Davis Field House will reduce tests to 500 per day. Once procedures are streamlined, Jenkins said testing would increase to 1,000 tests per day -- and hopefully have a two-day turnaround.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued the following statement Monday after Dallas County and the city of Dallas declined an additional two-week extension of federal testing support at the Ellis Davis Field House.
"We have greatly appreciated the federal COVID-19 testing support we have received since March. The Community-Based Testing Sites have been vital to our response to this pandemic. But in recent weeks, because of the significant demand for tests nationwide, we have seen long delays for results from the federal test kits. Dallas County, the City's contracted public health authority, believes these delays put the public at risk and that continuing the status quo is not in the best interest of our community. Accordingly, Parkland staff will take over the Ellis Davis Field House drive-through testing site and will administer up to 500 tests each day. The swabs will be taken to a local lab, which will hopefully allow us to receive results in a more timely manner. We will continue to welcome federal help in other aspects of our response to this national crisis. We thank Governor Greg Abbott, our Congressional delegation, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services for supporting several extensions of federal testing support, and we will continue working closely with our partners as we respond to the rampant spread of COVID-19."