Following an investigation into reports of lengthy wait times for COVID-19 test results, the Erie County Department of Health acknowledges that notification policies in place in November led to unacceptable delays in positive case notifications.
“We are aware of unacceptable delays in our process to contact individuals who sought testing at county-run drive-thru clinics,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “That breakdown has caused unnecessary confusion and uncertainty at a time when the public needs to have complete confidence in our public health response. Our epidemiology team has examined our records closely. We estimate that 10 of the 7,819 individuals with a positive diagnostic test result in Erie County since November 1 were affected by this lapse. I apologize to everyone affected by this error.”
In response to these delays, ECDOH has taken all available steps to expand its contact tracing team and adjust its processes to give Erie County residents the information they need to isolate. “Anyone who has sought a test at an ECDOH drive-through site prior to November 19 who does not yet have their results should call 716-858-2929 and ask to be transferred to Epidemiology,” said Dr. Burstein. “Our epidemiology staff will provide test results and advise on steps to isolate and quarantine household contacts.”
Going forward, Office of Epidemiology staff will contact all patients with a positive COVID-19 test result from ECDOH drive-through clinics within 24 hours of when those results are received. Epidemiology staff notify those patients of their positive status, and advise them that a contact tracer will be calling them to complete a case investigation, and place their close contacts in quarantine.
All patients with a negative COVID-19 test result from ECDOH drive-through test sites are also contacted within 24 hours after results are received. In New York State, health care providers who order clinical laboratory tests are responsible for informing their patients of their test results. Patients who had tests through commercial labs, health care facilities, physician’s offices or NYSDOH should contact those agencies for their results.