Some Testing Turnaround Times Double as Local Labs Work to Keep Up with Surge

BOSTON — As lines grow for PCR tests around the state, Boston 25 News has been looking into turnaround times for results. We found local labs are doing everything they can to keep up, but getting your results back may take two or even three times as long as it did before.

“Some of our staff are out because they or a close contact have contracted COVID, and although we’re able to compensate, it means our average turnaround times are now in the 24-26 hour range,” Broad Institute Communications Director David Cameron wrote in an email to Boston 25 News. The Broad Institute handles much of the PCR testing for the state, including pool testing for local schools and universities.

“Although this is still close to the 24-hour benchmark we’ve aimed for since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s higher than the 6-12 hour turnaround range we’ve been used to,” Cameron added, saying those times could still increase.

“It is a noticeable increase, partly because we’ve been accustomed to such great turnaround time,” Newton-Wellesley Hospital Associate Pathology Chair Dr. Michael Misialek said.

“It’s just a matter of increased demand because of the new variant. Really, really stressing labs across the state and across the country to turn out results,” he added.

As of Friday, January 7th, The Broad Institute reported it completed 28.9 million tests since the start of the pandemic. It was a complete pivot for the company affiliated with MIT and Harvard, which had previously been focused on research for diseases like cancer. On Thursday alone, the lab processed 98,000 tests. You can see more of the company’s interactive reports here:

The Broad said via email, they’re confident they can keep up, even with increased demand when area colleges return in the next few weeks.

Several school systems in our area, including Cambridge Public schools, have already warned families about pool testing delays. Dr. Misialek recommended those still waiting for PCR results take rapid home tests if they can find them, and otherwise take precautions in terms of exposure.

Still Misialek says testing in the state is not at a critical tipping point yet.

“It’s something to definitely keep an eye on. Whether delays will impact the test and stay program,” said Dr. Misialek.

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