Florida Severs Ties with Quest Diagnostics Due to Coronavirus Testing Failures

Interior view of Quest Diagnostics in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA on August 6, 2020. Photo and Caption: Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) and Division of Emergency Management announced Tuesday, September 1, that they were cutting all ties with Quest Diagnostics. 

Quest failed to report tens of thousands of results, some even stemming from months ago, according to state health officials. Some of the test results dated as far back as April, the state says.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ office was informed Monday night that nearly 75,000 test results were going to be entered into the Department of Health’s coronavirus monitoring system, according to a news release from the state. “The law requires all COVID-19 results to be reported to DOH in a timely manner,” Governor DeSantis said in a statement. “To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible.”

In response to the state cutting ties with the company, Quest sent the following statement to 8 On Your Side:

“Quest Diagnostics takes seriously our responsibility to report laboratory data to public health authorities in a timely manner to aid pandemic response. Due to a technical issue, our reporting of a subset of public health COVID-19 test data to the Florida Department of Health was delayed. This subset involves nearly 75,000 of the approximately 1.4 million COVID-19 tests we have performed and reported to the state.

We apologize for this matter and regret the challenge it poses for public health authorities in Florida. The issue has since been resolved. Importantly, the issue did not affect or delay reporting of test results to providers and patients.

Quest Diagnostics has provided more COVID-19 testing on behalf of the citizens of Florida than any other laboratory and we believe we are well-positioned to continue to effectively aid patient care and public health response for the state. We remain open to working with the state Department of Health to provide testing that meets the needs required for patient care and public health response.”

The state reported that without the Quest results, the positivity rate for new cases totaling 3,773 for Aug. 31 is 5.9%. With the Quest results, that total rises to 7,643 cases with a positivity rate of 6.8%. The state said the majority of the Quest results were for tests more than two weeks old, and some as old as five months.

Total positive cases to date number at 631,040, or about 1 in 34 residents, or 2.9% of the state’s 21.5 million population.

State cases totals have been dropping since the high of 15,300 reported positive COVID-19 results on July 12, and the DOH has not reported more than 10,000 cases since July 25 and has been under 5,000 every day since Aug. 15 until Tuesday’s report.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have also been steadily falling. Across the state, 3,612 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The state’s online tool updates several times throughout the day. Orange County reported 167 patients hospitalized, Osceola with 68, Seminole with 51, and Lake with 78.

Nearly 4.7 million people have been tested in Florida, with 60,331 more tests reported Tuesday compared with the previous day, the dashboard update said, although DeSantis cited nearly 75,000 tests from just Quest alone.

These numbers are important because they allow for officials to determine whether or not certain policies change. DeSantis said the biggest impact of the mistake was that testing numbers play a huge role in determining public strategy. If the numbers showed a rise in cases, then strategies for re-opening business back up are affected by the numbers.

On Monday, August 31, restaurants in Miami-Dade County were allowed to have indoor dining at 50% capacity, as long as the windows and doors of the establishment stay open and social distancing guidelines are followed. Staff and customers alike must wear masks at all times (except when customers eat or drink).