Why is it so long to get COVID-19 lab results locally?

Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The region’s medical officer of health expects the turnaround time for novel coronavirus nasal swab tests locally will get better next week as more laboratories come online.

“The laboratories are ramping up and, although there’s been a five to seven day turnaround time, we’ve been told by the ministry (Ministry of Health) that they’re ramping up and by the next week or so we’ll be at a much more rapid pace – 24 to 48 hours,” Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said Friday afternoon on a conference call with reporters.

Cornwall Newswatch has received questions from local people who have taken the swab test and are waiting for results. “I have a friend that works for Canada Post. They told her she would have results in four days, then seven and now ten,” one woman told CNW. “Day 8 and still no word.”

As of today (Friday), there are results for roughly 350 swabs outstanding.

Roumeliotis says, regardless of the test results, people need to be diligent now to “blunt the curve” of coronavirus cases.

“I think we should assume the virus is in our area and whether or not we have X number of cases versus Y number of cases, to me we need to be diligent,” he said.

While testing centers in Cornwall and Winchester are likely to start up sometime this week, they will change to assessment centers when there’s an undefined number of positive cases. That’s because testing will stop and people with any combination of cough, fever, aches and shortness of breath will be presumed to have COVID-19.

Roumeliotis says they are “expecting some results shortly” and if there are any positive cases they will be posted to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit page.

The region has had four positive cases to date – all in Prescott-Russell.