Florida Cuts Ties With Quest Over Delayed COVID-19 Test Results

Sep 1, 2020

The state is severing ties with Quest Diagnostics after the company did not timely report to the Florida Department of Health nearly 75,000 COVID-19 test results from as far back as April, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration announced Tuesday.

“To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible. I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in,” DeSantis said in a statement. “As such, I am directing all executive agencies to sever their COVID-19 testing relationships with Quest effective immediately.”

In a news release, the governor’s office said the company contacted all people who tested positive and advised them of their results.

Quest, one of the country’s largest health testing laboratories, blamed the delay on “technical issues.”

"The issue has since been resolved," Quest said Tuesday in a statement. "Importantly, the issue did not affect or delay reporting of test results to providers and patients."

DeSantis’ office said the results submitted to the state Monday “for the most part” were more than two weeks old and in some instances were five months old.

The administration said the information’s inclusion taints the state’s daily COVID-19 test results and that it raised further questions on the reliability of testing data for making policy decisions. Without the backlog of Quest results, the positivity rate for new cases on Monday would be 5.9 percent, according to the state. Including the Quest data, the positivity rate would be 6.9 percent.

Meanwhile, in a Tuesday morning phone call with hospital officials, Molly McKinstry, a deputy secretary at the Agency for Health Care Administration, said new federal regulations will be finalized and published this week affecting laboratory reporting and nursing home reporting of COVID-19 results.

McKinstry said the state anticipates there will be penalties for failure to comply with the federal regulations.

“Please make sure that … any lab issues you’re involved with, whether hospital-based labs, point-of-care devices or a lab you contact with for services, please make sure that that reporting is happening timely to the Department of Health. It’s incredibly important to monitor the impact of cases in our state, among other things,” McKinstry said on the phone call.

Information from NPR and the Associated Press was used in this report.