FLORIDA ― On Sept. 1, Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Division of Emergency Management to sever all ties with Quest Diagnostics.
Quest has performed 1.4 million COVID-19 tests in Florida, which the company said is the most of any laboratory in the state.
The dispute arose after Quest reported on Aug. 31 nearly 75,000 test results dating back to April. The company claimed that although the test results had been shared with patients and providers in a timely manner, a “technical issue” delayed the uploading of the data into the state system.
According to Gov. DeSantis, that delay raised the Florida positivity rate for new cases on Aug. 31 from 5.9% to 6.8%.
“Quest’s failure to report nearly 75,000 results dating back to April means most of the data in today’s upload, while it will have historical significance, will have little impact on the status of the pandemic today,” the statement from Gov. DeSantis said.
“The law requires all COVID-19 results to be reported to DOH in a timely manner. 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. As such I am directing all executive agencies to sever their COVID-19 testing relationships with Quest effective immediately.”
The state acknowledged that all individuals that tested positive had been notified of their results in a timely manner. “Therefore, while significant, this unacceptable dump of test results is a data issue and does not impact the health of individuals or the spread of COVID-19 in Florida.”
“Quest Diagnostics takes seriously our responsibility to report laboratory data to public health authorities in a timely manner to aid pandemic response,” the company responded. “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 had 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.”
Nationwide, Quest says it has processed and reported approximately 13.2 million COVID-19 tests. The company says it now has an average turnaround time for tests of two days across all populations, and one to two days for members of a priority population, which includes hospitalized patients, individuals in long-term care, and pre-surgical patients.
Quest claims it can now provide 200,000 COVID-19 tests a day. But the state of Florida does not plan to work further with Quest on COVID testing.
“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,” the company said. “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.”