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COVID-19 results to Verde Valley: two-day turnaround typical
Molecular tests go to labs in Tempe, Flagstaff

Associated Press

Associated Press

COTTONWOOD - Test-result turnaround times for COVID-19 have improved over the past few weeks, a Northern Arizona Healthcare official said Thursday. NAH’s chief quality officer, John Mougin, said turnaround from local laboratories has improved over the course of the month of March.

It is now at about two days, or three to five days at the most.

Laboratories typically will not give COVID-19 results over the phone or electronically. This is done in person.

Trista MacVittie, chief experience and communication officer with Northern Arizona Healthcare, said that the outdoor collection site in the southeast parking lot of Verde Valley Medical Center is using Sonora Quest Labs’ Tempe lab to process collected specimens, while samples collected from the main hospital are sent to a Mayo Clinic lab.

A video that can be seen on the COVID-19 page of the website of a Phoenix-area company that processes tests, Labcorp, which can be found at labcorp.com, shows plates of samples being inserted into an instrument that extracts nucleic acid — the genetic material in viruses. That acid is then chemically analyzed.

Dr. Brian Koeneman, clinical director of molecular diagnostics for Sonora Quest Laboratories, answered some questions through an advertising agency. Here are the Verde Independent’s questions and his responses.

Verde Independent: How does the Cottonwood Sonora Quest location get notified of COVID-19 tests —through walk-ins, doctor’s referrals, notification from clinics or medical offices or hospitals, or all of the above? Can a person with a doctor’s order go into the Cottonwood clinic and request a test? If paying cash, how much does it cost?

Koeneman: The Sonora Quest location in Cottonwood is a Patient Service Center; it is not a laboratory that performs testing. Sonora Quest does not collect COVID-19 specimens at our any of our locations throughout Arizona.

This location does not get notified of COVID-19 tests as this location does not perform tests. A person should not visit the Sonora Quest location in Cottonwood to receive COVID-19 testing, as it is not collected at any of the patient service centers; at this time, it must be collected by a healthcare worker that is trained in this collection. Testing for COVID-19 is performed at the main Sonora Quest lab located in Tempe.

The testing requires a physician’s order and is not available directly to consumers. Patients suspected of, or confirmed to have, COVID-19 should call their physician regarding the best way to provide a specimen for testing by Sonora Quest. Physicians should visit sonoraquest.com/covid for more information on how submit the order for testing. The cost is $77 and is billable to insurance. Any invoicing will be performed at a later date. Patients are able to drop off their collected and sealed sample at a patient service Center, if their collection site is unable to send the sample.

This is very important: The patient must call ahead to arrange for drop off to protect Sonora Quest employees and other patients.

VI: What was the average turnaround of such tests to get results out, as of March 1? How about as of April 2?

Koeneman: (The turnaround) for Sonora Quest was seven to eight days from the time of specimen pickup, as of March 11, when the lab began offering this testing, using Quest Diagnostics in California. On March 20, we began offering the testing at our Tempe laboratory, and turnaround time has (since) remained below 50 hours, on average. Turnaround time depends on demand for testing and may increase as the demand grows. Sonora Quest is actively working to expand its testing capacity within the next few weeks.

VI: About how many technically trained people work directly with testing at the Cottonwood facility?

Koeneman: A COVID-19 test is not collected or performed at the Cottonwood facility. Testing is performed at the main Sonora Quest lab located in Tempe.

VI: Are results physically transported to the state lab for confirmation, or is that simply digital information sent over to confirm calculations?

Koeneman: State confirmation is not a requirement for our testing. Sonora Quest Laboratories has been submitting all results — both positive and negative — to the Arizona Department of Health Services since we started testing for SARS-CoV-2, and will continue to do so.

VI: What does the test involve? Is it a chemical reaction test?

Koeneman: The Sonora Quest Laboratories test for COVID-19 is a qualitative, molecular test to detect RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. This test has been authorized by the FDA under Emergency Use Authorization for use by authorized labs.

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