PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - COVID-19 test sites are reporting dramatically shorter lines and less demand this week. Operators believe patients are scared away by stories of people who have waited 14 days for results.
"We definitely have seen a marked decline in the number of patients who are scheduling for appointments," said Raymond Embry, who is the development director of Embry Women's Health, and the operator of COVID-19 test sites across the Phoenix area.
Embry says he believes the drop in patients is directly related to frustration over wait times for results.
"Literally, the demand drop in half from one day to the next," said Embry.
He says he and his employees searched for a new lab to process samples last week. They had been using Sonora Quest Labs, which is the largest testing service in Arizona. But the company had a backlog that reached 60,000 earlier this week, and patients were waiting two weeks for results.
"At that point, you are fully anonymous. You are the only person who knows you have been exposed."
A spokesperson for Sonora Quest blamed the backlog on increased demand.
"We are working as quickly as possible to bring additional testing instrumentation online with a goal of reducing turnaround time in the coming weeks. That being said, we confident we are trending in the right direction as we expand our testing capacity to 60,000 tests per day by the end of August," said the spokesperson.
Public health officials say the lag in test results and the drop in people getting tested is bad news.
"From a public health standpoint, this is a frustrating point because we have a limited time in which we can react. We can do the case investigation and stop further transmission," said Dr. Cara Christ, who is the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Christ says there are other testing labs and sites coming online, which should reduce the total average wait time dramatically. Arizona State University offers free testing on Saturdays and Tuesdays, with a turnaround time of two days. Embry Women's Health, which operates sites that are open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, is working with a new lab and expects results in two to four days.