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Surging Demand, Lab Backlogs Make For Long Wait Times For COVID-19 Test Results

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The rise in COVID-19 cases has sent people flocking to test sites to make sure they haven't been infected – but the surging demand has caused a major backlog at laboratories.

As CBS 2's Meredith Barack reported Friday, one would think the wait would be over after standing in a long line. But that was not the case for several people who are now, more than a week later, still waiting on their tests.

"We were planning on going home for Christmas," said Matt Lindner.

Their travels were only going to take them to the suburbs, but Matt Lindner and his wife, Sarah Spunt, wanted to be as safe as possible as they did feel a bit symptomatic.

"We have nieces and nephews that are all under the age of 5, so we're doing it out of an abundance of caution," Lindner said.

The Lakeview couple went to a Northshore Clinical testing site at Broadway and Oakdale Avenue on Dec. 23.

"We got our rapid results within about 10 minutes and both of us tested negative," he said.

As for their PCR results, Lindner said: "Every day since the tests, I'm checking my e-mail. I'm checking my phone, my spam folder."

Barack called Northshore Clinical to see what their turnaround time was, and how much of a backlog they were experiencing. But she had not heard back late Friday.

"I'd like to believe that I'm going to get the results that I was promised but, you know, at this point, it's been eight days since my test," Lindner said. "It's been three days since I've had any symptoms, so I've completed the isolation that the CDC asks for."

Lindner is not alone. Several Twitter users have posted about their long waits.

Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said she is waiting for results from Dec. 22.

One woman says her PCR results from last Friday have yet to be sent to her, and another tweeted that a friend was told PCR results could take up to four weeks.

Skokie-based NTL Laboratories says their current turnaround time is three to four days, with employees working around the clock to process roughly 10 to 12,000 PCR tests a day.

"We're basically doing as much as we can, but as any other healthcare worker or healthcare provider, we're very, very, very overwhelmed with this Omicron pandemic," said Perla Orozco of NTL Laboratories.

Pictures from inside their lab show the workload they are up against- a workload that Orozco hopes lessens in the new year.

"But right now, we are very, very busy," she said.

Orozco said for anyone who is symptomatic, PCR tests remain the gold standard in COVID testing.

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