Private vendor Honu Management Group has been administering tests at the county’s Eastfield College site in Mesquite for more than a month.
Multiple complaints of slow results led to an investigation by Dr. Philip Huang, the director of the county’s health and human services department. Huang found that, in some cases, it was taking up to 10 days for a patient to receive results, County Judge Clay Jenkins told commissioners Aug. 18.
“The most galling part is that it was taking over 3.5 days [on average] for the test that was done on a person to make it to Austin,” Jenkins said. “You could take it on a bicycle in three and a half days.”
The city of Dallas made an agreement Honu in early July in hopes that the move would improve the timeliness of results, according to a June 30 county press release. This would in turn improve accuracy of coronavirus data in North Texas.
“It’s completely unacceptable that we would switch to a vendor who would then hold onto a test for any length of time at all when the contract and the expectation is that they would either drive it themselves or put it in FedEx and it would get there the next day,” Jenkins said.
Parkland Hospital will take over testing at the Eastfield site once the contract with Honu is officially canceled, Jenkins said. The city of Dallas submitted its 10-day termination notice to Honu on Aug. 18, he said.
The Honu problem comes on the heels of a coding issue in the state’s system that resulted in a major backlog of confirmed cases earlier this week. This error has called into question the accuracy of the statewide positivity rate, which is one of the key indicators health experts use to gauge the severity of the virus.
Last week, Jenkins announced that the county would attempt to bring down its 16% positivity rate by expanding free testing to certain essential workers, such as teachers and members of the construction industry.
“If the positivity rate is high, it concerns you that the people you are testing are only the sickest people and that you are missing a lot of people,” Jenkins said at an Aug. 13 press conference.
By expanding the pool of residents being tested for the virus, the county hopes to see the positivity rate go down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a rate of 5% indicates adequate testing, Jenkins said.
“If you are testing a broader section of people and the number is lower, then you’re probably getting an accurate sample,” he said.