Delaware looks to extend COVID testing times

WILMINGTON — After increased demand for COVID-19 testing in the days around Thanksgiving, state officials are gearing up for another surge in testing throughout the holiday season.

A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said the state saw spikes of around 13,000 tests in a single day and two concurrent days over 10,000 in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. In the weeks prior, the state was averaging about 6,000 tests a day.

Mr. Schall said based on what state officials learned from the Thanksgiving rush, community COVID-19 testing sites will have longer hours in late December. He added while there likely won’t be a larger number of testing sites than usual, the state will choose more strategic locations in rural areas to go along with the longer hours as well.

“The first thing we learned is, people want to get tested so that’s the win right there,” Mr. Schall said. “I think we learned we need to have longer hours. So we’re going to make sure we have time for people to get tested after that 5-6 p.m. mark in the early evening.”

This plan also includes more available testing on Saturdays. The state typically does not do as many testing events on Sundays, which helps relax any possible backlogs at labs.

The turnaround time for results has increased in recent weeks thanks to the higher turnout numbers.

The state sites run by Curative Inc. and Walgreens are currently expected to send back results between 48 and 72 hours. Prior to the Thanksgiving surge, Curative Inc. was averaging less than 24 hours for results.

Mr. Schall said if the state stays between averaging 7,000 and 10,000 tests per day, it will likely remain around 48 hours for results for the rest of 2020. The only thing which will slow down turnaround time around the holidays would be the increased demand, not staffing at the labs.

“They’re working 24/7, holiday or not a holiday,” Mr. Schall said. “We have that agreement with them and it’s working.”

Another option for testing is an at-home kit which can be requested by visiting de.gov/hometest.

The test is done over Zoom with a medical professional and is mailed to the lab at no cost to the test taker. Results are then sent electronically.

The turnaround time for at-home tests, Mr. Schall said, is 24 hours from when the lab receives the result.

To be eligible to receive an at-home test, individuals must live or work in Delaware, have an email address for each person being tested and have a smartphone or video-enabled computer.

“This is a convenient, very easy process for individuals to do at home,” Mr. Schall said.

Delaware will remain under a stay-at-home advisory throughout the holiday season as Delawareans are strongly urged not to gather with anyone outside their household. It begins on Monday and lasts until Jan. 11.

Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at tmastro@newszap.com.

Follow @TimMastroDSN on Twitter.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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