Surging COVID-19 cases lengthen turnaround time for COVID-19 testing


CONTACT: Karen Landers, M.D.
(256) 383-1231

The State of Alabama continues to experience increases in the number of COVID-19 cases. While there has been a recent decline in the percentage of persons who test positive, the state is currently facing a surge that has overwhelmed Alabama’s ability to provide test results within the 2- to 3-day turnaround time needed to expeditiously make quarantine and care decisions.

The “turnaround time,” which is the time from when specimens are received in the laboratory to reporting of the results, is increasing due to a number of factors, including supply chain issues with test reagents, an overall increased demand for tests nationwide, and in some cases, increased numbers of unnecessary tests.

The current turnaround time for most COVID-19 testing performed in Alabama by commercial laboratories and the state laboratory is now averaging about 7 days. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recognizes that this is too long and asks for consumers and physicians and other providers to help in making sure that those who are most vulnerable become the focus for testing: the elderly, those in congregate living settings, healthcare personnel, those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and those with underlying medical conditions that place them most at risk.

Retesting to obtain negative results before an employee is allowed to return to work is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or by ADPH. In addition, all persons with symptoms and all persons with a known exposure to a COVID-19 positive case should quarantine for at least 14 days. A negative test does not eliminate this requirement for quarantine when the person is a close contact to a COVID-19 positive case or remains symptomatic without another diagnosis.

For specific information of Isolation and Quarantine Guidance visit Patients and Testing (link no longer available) for non-healthcare personnel and for healthcare personnel.


County health departments throughout Alabama provide a wide range of confidential and professional services. Contact your local county health department for additional information.

Mission: To promote, protect, and improve Alabama’s health

Vision: Healthy People. Healthy Communities. Healthy Alabama.

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