Denton County struggling to keep up with COVID-19 testing demand

The Denton County Public Health Department says a surge in testing demand is causing a backlog and delaying test results by up to a week or more.

Denton County Public Health says it uses three private labs to process up to a thousand tests they conduct a week. They did pause submitting test samples to one lab and spread the tests out among the other labs it uses. But the demand for testing doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

As testing for COVID-19 expands, there is growing pressure on testing sites and labs.

RELATED: Coronavirus coverage

Denton County health officials say registration for their weekly testing sites typically fills up 1-2 days beforehand, and they almost always have to turn people away.

“I think laboratories have increased capacity. They've added machines they vetted technicians,” said Denton County Public Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson. “I think they've added all of those things, and we're still not being able to keep up with the demand.”

The demand is causing a backlog not just for Denton County, but for others waiting for results in places like Dallas County, too. Some are waiting up to ten days in some case, which makes contact tracing difficult.

“The contact tracing really, at this point, is considerably less than it was. And so we will do case interviews and we'll ask about household contacts will ask about work contacts,” Dr. Richardson said. “Those really close contacts is the contact tracing we're focusing on.”

Denton County is seeing an increase in overall cases, but also an increase in their positivity rate. It jumped from two percent to now 11 percent over the last few months.

“Both are indicative of a problem,” Dr. Richardson said. “So we're seeing both we're seeing additional cases, but we're seeing more cases per hundred tests, turning out positive and that's telling us there's more activity.

Public health officials are continuing to urge people to help slow the spread.

“We want to de-politicize this idea of physical distancing and facial coverings,” Dr. Richardson said. “A mask is not a political statement. It is merely a preventive effort, and we're trying to prevent additional cases to prevent additional infections that are most vulnerable and that should prevent deaths.”

Denton County conducts testing every Tuesday on the University of North Texas campus and on Fridays at a different site throughout the county. Registration is required and, again, the spaces typically fill up before the testing site opens for the day.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases