SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California’s new coronavirus testing lab is supposed to speed up testing, so how is it doing this first week?

The state’s new $25 million lab and $1.7 billion contract with PerkinElmer, which requires results in 24 to 48 hours, is supposed to revolutionize COVID-19 testing in California.

CBS13’s investigative reporter Julie Watts’ family of four was among the first to put the new lab to the test. We took our COVID tests on Monday at the same state-run testing site we’ve used twice a month since July. Only two results were ready by Wednesday night, a little over the required 48 hours, or 2.1 days.

That is nearly twice the average time (1.2 days) the state said patients waited for test results statewide before the new lab went live.

Mark W. Pandori, the director of Nevada’s public health lab, was formerly a public health lab director in California. He says two days is still a good turnaround. But we have been getting tested there for months, and this week, for the first time, one test came back inconclusive. The only difference was the new lab.

“We do get inconclusive results, all labs do, it’s just that they are rare,” Pandori said.

He says, generally speaking, an inconclusive result means the test was run at least twice and remained inconclusive.

“So, as an expert in this area, would you be concerned that this is the first inconclusive we’ve seen, same facility, same staff? The only difference is the lab?” Watts asked Pandori.

“Not if you only have one,” he said. “But if we started to see a lot of inconclusive results, that might be a different story only because they are rare.”

On Friday, the state said “the average processing time at the new lab is 24 hours” but that doesn’t include transport time to the lab.

But out of our four tests, we only received two results close to the required 48 hours —  one inconclusive — and four days later, we’re still waiting for my husband’s results.


By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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