TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The State of Florida has severed ties with one of the biggest names in coronavirus testing, saying the company failed to follow state law and report results in a timely manner.
Officials with the Florida Department of Health and Division of Emergency Management announced Tuesday that they were cutting all ties with Quest Diagnostics. According to state officials, Quest failed to report tens of thousands of results – some of them months old.
According to a news release from the state, Gov. 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. Some of the test results dated as far back as April, the state says.
“The law requires all COVID-19 results to be reported to DOH in a timely manner,” Gov. DeSantis said in a statement. “To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible.”
The state says the failure to report those results means most of the data in the dump will have historical significance but little impact on the current status of the pandemic in Florida.
Quest told the state they notified everyone who tested positive of their results on time. Florida officials say that means the “unacceptable data dump” is a data issue and “does not impact the health of individuals or the spread of COVID-19 in Florida.”
“I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in,” Gov. DeSantis said. “As such, I am directing all executive agencies to sever their COVID-19 testing relationships with Quest effective immediately.”
State health officials say the total number of new cases reported on Aug. 31 was 7,643. Without the Quest backlog, the state says the number would have been 3,773. The backlog also impacted the positivity rate. The state says the Aug. 31 rate was 6.8% but would have been 5.9% without the data dump.
Quest released the following statement after Florida cut ties:
“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.”
Quest Diagnostics is a large, nationwide lab company. Quest had provided testing at private sites, as well as performing limited testing through the state.
This is not the first time that Florida has raised a red flag about Quest.
The Division of Emergency Management took a step back from Quest in July in an attempt to get results reported quicker.
“In recent weeks, soaring demand for COVID-19 testing is outpacing our testing capacity, slowing testing times,” a Quest spokesperson said at the time. “Quest is doing everything it can to scale up testing capacity deliver test results more quickly.”