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Sonora Quest fails to clear COVID-19 backlog by Friday, works to expand testing

Sonora Quest Laboratories
Posted at 4:59 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 21:46:46-04

One of the largest labs in our state failed to meet its goal of clearing its COVID-19 test backlog by July 31. Friday evening, Sonora Quest reported a backlog of 17,218 tests. The lab said its priority is to have clear the backlog by the end of Sunday, August 2.

Sonora Quest had 62,000 tests in the backlog last week and has processed close to 40,000 tests in the past several days. The lab has been processing tests at a higher rate, but there is still a 14-day backlog.

Sonora Quest is reporting a nine-day turnaround time, but ABC15 has spoken to several people who've waited much longer.

Gabrielle Richard from Phoenix got tested for COVID-19 when she started feeling sick. She said she waited 15 days to get results back from Sonora Quest. While she waited for results, she stayed at home, falling behind on her yoga training and missing work.

"I felt stressed about work because I wasn't going to get paid. My check was half of what I'd normally make," she said. "At this point, because the government is not really doing a lot, we all still have to work and carry on with our lives, it'd be cool if we could get our tests and do that responsibly."

On July 9, Sonora Quest, Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services announced "Project Catapult," a major investment to get the lab new equipment to expand testing. The goal was to expand to 35,000 tests a day by the end of July and to 60,000 tests a day by the end of August. They also said they would decrease turnaround time to as little as 24 hours.

Here are the most recent updates on Project Catapult from Sonora Quest:

  • Two new testing lines are in production, and our testing ramp-up will continue to accelerate as we add an additional line, which is in the process of being validated and should be in production by July 31.
  • We anticipate that a fourth line should be validated and in production the week of August 3.
  • Starting Monday, August 3, testing on the new lines will be reported within 1 to 3 days, with an expectation to be reported within 1 to 2 days by the end of August as additional lines are put into production.
  • As the additional testing lines are implemented and staff trained, Sonora Quest anticipates that it will be close to a capacity of 21,000 tests/day by Monday, August 3, and a capacity of 30,000 by Sunday, August 9. Capacity will continue to increase as we add additional testing lines until we reach a capacity of 60,000 tests/day by August 31.