The wait time between someone in New Jersey getting a COVID-19 test and when they get their results has crept up to more than five days, as the nationwide surge puts a strain on the country’s testing infrastructure.
That’s up from between two and four days on average, according to Judith Persichilli, the state’s health commissioner, even as the spread of the virus within New Jersey stays at a manageable level and the state blows past its daily testing goals several days of the week.
“In New Jersey, the testing turnaround has been steadily increasing for three weeks, due to a national demand, and a national supply shortage,” Persichilli said at the administration’s Monday afternoon COVID-19 press briefing at the Trenton War Memorial.
Walmart’s test time was between four and six days, Persichilli said, while CVS was between five and seven days.
The three major diagnostic companies – LabCorp, Elmwood Park-based BioReference Laboratories and Secaucus-based Quest Diagnostics – warned last week that explosions in testing demand has, in turn, meant longer wait times, upward of a week rather than a matter of days.
New Jersey still has the capacity to perform tests en masse, a night-and-day difference from March when residents waited on lines for hours for one of the just hundreds of tests available per day.
State and private testing centers, such as those at pharmacies and big box stores, performed 24,00 tests on July 11, according to health department data. They performed 38,000 tests on July 10, and 24,000 on July 9.
But New Jersey’s ability to keep restrictions lifted on businesses, travel and public gatherings counts on both considerable testing capability and quick turnaround time, as well as contact tracing, whereby anyone who’s been in touch with someone with the virus is advised to get tested, and to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As of last week, individuals who travel from any of the 19 states where there are COVID-19 “hotspots” are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days to reduce their chance of spreading the virus. Those states represent nearly 165 million, or just over half the population of the United States.
Those hotspots, rather than an influx of New Jerseyans rushing to the Jersey Shore and racial justice demonstrations that began in early June, have fueled the state’s recent spikes, Murphy argued.
“I still don’t think we have any evidence … that either beaches or protest activity has led to an increase in cases,” Murphy said on Monday. “We do believe that indoor graduation parties or folks coming in from out of state have.”
That comes a week after New Jersey reported its highest transmission rate of the virus in nearly two months when it popped up to 1.04 on July 4.
As of Monday, it was at 0.91, up from 0.70 when outdoor dining and non-essential retail first reopened.