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Mayor De Blasio Says Delay In Coronavirus Test Results Should Be Resolved: 'Getting Much Better'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City now has the capacity to complete 50,000 coronavirus tests a day, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

"This is the number we've been wanting to get to for quite a while," he said. "We'll now have that capacity."

De Blasio said MedRite Urgent Care has joined the effort, and is now offering testing in Inwood, the Garment District and Midtown, Manhattan, along with Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

The mayor also said the median turnaround time for test results is down to two days.

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Shares Update On Coronavirus Testing Capacity 

Several reporters asked his team about this, citing recent complaints about delays.

"We had a really bad stretch where the national crisis and the strain it put on testing was clearly affecting everyone, including New York City. We've pushed back on that with a variety of new plans with the labs and with expanding the work that Health and Hospitals is doing," de Blasio replied. "So we had a really bad stretch. It's now getting much better. That city-wide average -- when you combine all testing around the city -- it's come back down to a much more acceptable timeline. And we hope to keep it that way."

"One of the challenges, of course, is that the turnaround time for results varies depending upon which laboratories do those tests. So, as the mayor has noted, we have been working very aggressively to reduce the turnaround time at commercial laboratories," added Dr. Jay Varma. "People may still be experiencing some delays, but they should start to see those resolve fairly quickly."


Dr. Ted Long, head of the contact tracing initiative, said one strategy they implemented this week is called "pooling."

"Pooling is where if you have multiple different samples of coronavirus tests from patients, you run them all at the same time. And if that overall sample is negative, then you don't need to run each one individually, because you know that each one individually is negative. So it saves a tremendous amount of time," he explained.

Dr. Long also said the program's "hyper-local COVID-19 response" was a success in the Tremont section fo the Bronx, and will now expand into Sunset Park, Brooklyn and the Rockaways, Queens.

Commercial Labs On Long Island Under Serious Pressure

When she first felt symptoms, interior designer Jill Shields was told her COVID test results would be back within a week.

"Seven days went by, no results," Shields told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff. "So now we are up to 10 days. They told me they ran out of the reagent."

Reagents are the chemicals needed to process the samples taken from people. They are now in short supply.

That, combined with a flood of demand, has commercial labs on Long Island and around the nation buckling under backlogs.

"We are seeing an increased demand for these types of tests because kids are going to camp. Kids will be going back to college. Parents need it for work clearance," said Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical advisor at PM Pediatrics.

FLASHBACK: New Jersey Set To Aggressively Expand Contact Tracing; Gov. Murphy Makes It Clear Program Is Not A Tracking App

Johns said two days turnaround time is now up to nearly two weeks, making contact tracing and containment difficult.

"They aren't really always that strict and disciplined about staying on lockdown until those test results come back, and so that worries us," Johns said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National labs like Quest and Sunrise say the bottleneck is in supplies.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said they're overwhelmed because other states haven't ramped-up local labs like New York, where 70% of tests are returned in under three days.

"There are only 10 big national labs. You can't have the entire nation going to the 10 labs," Cuomo added.

Hospital labs like Northwell turn around tests within a day for prioritized patients, like those who need surgery.

"Location does matter, yeah, and the demand matters, so with the increase in testing, and the testing demand has not gone down," Dr. Dwayne Breining said.

But patients can't always pick where their test is sent.

ProHEALTH's medical director, Dr. Ian Leber, offered the following advice:

"What you have to find out is if the place you go to get tested can do the test on-site, or if they have to send it out," Leber said.

After 12 days, Shields' test came back negative. After two weeks, her daughter's was positive.

"The federal government or someone has to come in to help," Shields said.

And the governor warned that it's going to get worse when flu season hits and labs have to run those tests, too. All agree a mass-produced rapid test is desperately needed.

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