Have you waited too long for COVID-19 test results in metro Atlanta? You’re not alone

With coronavirus cases surging in Georgia, many people have reached out to Channel 2 Action News to express their worries and frustrations about waiting too long for test results.

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden has been in close contact with state and county officials with the possible reasons behind the delays.

Atlanta real estate agent Carlen Funk said she had headaches and congestion before she made the decision to get tested for COVID-19.

“So I got tested on June 4 at one of the Mercedes Benz Stadium parking lots,” Funk said. ”They took the test and the paper with all my information on it and then gave me a slip of paper with the follow-up information.”

Funk sent Channel 2 a photo of the slip of paper she received.

It clearly states that the Fulton County Board of Health will call you with your results in two to five business days and that if you don’t receive a call you’re asked to call the health department hotline.

“So on the sixth day, I hadn’t heard anything. I called the phone number on the piece of paper that they had given me,” Funk said.

Funk called and emailed the Fulton health board for 19 days before they finally responded in an email June 23 that read “Sorry it took so long. We are super behind, but making progress.”

“She said if I was able to provide my date of birth that she would get my test results to me. Thirty minutes later they were in my inbox,” Funk said.

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Funk’s test was negative. But Channel 2 Action News has learned that many Georgians are waiting more than a week to get their COVID-19 test results.

Clayton County resident Diamond Cash drove to Wolf Creek Amphitheater one week ago today and waited in line for three hours to get tested.

As of Tuesday evening, she’s still waiting for her results.

“Let us know what’s going on because we can be patient with you if you’re giving us information, if you’re giving us feedback because this is a lot,” Cash said.

Dr. Lynn Paxton, who recently came out of retirement, is in charge of the Fulton County Health Board.

She, like many people, waited days before getting her results. Paxton told Seiden the problem started with the county’s call center.

“Over the space of about a week to getting an average of maybe 300 to 400 calls a day to getting 1,500 calls a day,” Paxton said.

We took Fulton County’s numbers and compared them with entire state. You can see how tests are increasing on a daily basis, excluding the Fourth of July holiday weekend:

  • 6/29 13,375
  • 6/30 13,358
  • 7/01 15,900
  • 7/02 15,699
  • 7/03 2,843
  • 7/04 883
  • 7/05 308
  • 7/06 16,396

Paxton also said the labs in charge of processing the tests became overwhelmed and were unable to keep up with the demand.

“They have a lab portal, which in theory, the client can go on to that and can put in their information and get their results back. But there was a glitch,” she said.

“They needed to manually enter all of these tests,” Paxton said. “By that time, they had a backlog of 9,000 test results that had to be manually entered.”

Not only did this glitch cause anxiety and stress for thousands of people, but it also created another hurdle in the fight against the pandemic.

“The whole idea of testing to help us stop the epidemic is to identify someone who is positive very quickly, find them and advise them to self-quarantine and then find out if they’re in contact with others, so we can figure out who it spreads to,” Paxton said.

During our interview Tuesday, Paxton confirmed that the glitch has been fixed. She also shared with us the new steps the county has taken to help alleviate problems with the long wait time for test results.

“We’re increasing the phone lines, basically doubling them,” she said. “People will be able to go online and make their own appointments, so then they don’t have to go through the call center.”

But as the cases continue to soar and testing increases, it’s still unclear if the new system will be able to stop the spread.

“I think it’s just really important to keep fighting for results you are expecting,” Funk said. “If you sit around and wait for someone to get them to you, you might be disappointed.”