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Local labs preparing for increase in COVID testing

Local laboratories facilitating COVID-19 testing are preparing for an influx of Bahamians seeking to get tested as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes it mandatory for all air passengers entering the United States to present proof of a negative test result within three days of travel.

The new requirement takes effect on January 26 and calls for the negative result of a RT-PCR or rapid antigen test.

Doctors Hospital Chief Executive Officer Charles Sealy said with two testing centers, each with the capacity to carry out up to 600 tests daily, the hospital should be able to meet the increase in demand from Bahamians looking to travel to the US.

“The good thing about it is, based on the information that we get from the government, we can always pivot and create additional testing sites and locations to assist with any backlog that may be created,” Sealy said.

“We’ve had the opportunity to increase capacity around the island with sites at our Blake Road campus and at Town Centre Mall. So, at those sites, we’re able to do up to 600 tests a day each, and that’s more than meets the demand currently. We, of course, have three machines that can do batch testing and that can do individual testing as well. So, we feel very comfortable that we are prepared, both for what currently exists and should the demand increase, we believe that we can meet it.”

Bonaventia Culmer, owner of Bonaventure Medical Laboratory, said the lab carries out hundreds of COVID-19 tests daily, but she expects that number to take a jump to the thousands when the CDC’s new requirement takes effect.

“I know that we have the capacity in country to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing,” Culmer said.

“We’ve been successful with the Ministry of Health’s visa testing and I have no doubt that we will also be able to meet the demands for the RT-PCR testing. Now, COVID-19 testing has changed the way we do things because we usually get results to physicians. But with COVID-19, we have to get the results to the patients. So, yes, it’s going to increase the demand on us, but I have no doubt that we can meet that demand.”

According to Culmer, the turnaround time to get results to patients is 24 hours for RT-PCR tests and between 30 minutes to an hour or two for the rapid antigen test, depending on the level of business that day.

Culmer did, however, express concern over last-minute travelers and the demand they will place on labs to get results back quickly.

“You know how some Bahamians are,” she said.

“They come in in the morning, flight’s at 3 p.m., and they need the PCR results by then. We do try to accommodate those patients, but we definitely want Bahamians to give themselves at least 24 hours. If you know you’re traveling tomorrow at 7 a.m., don’t wait until 7 a.m. the day before to come in. Give yourself 48 hours, so you’re not on pins and needles waiting to get results.”

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Kyle Walkine

Kyle started with The Nassau Guardian in June 2014 as a broadcast reporter. He began anchoring the newscast four months later. Kyle began writing national news and feature stories in 2016. He covers a wide range of national stories. He previously worked as a reporter at Jones Communications. Education: College of The Bahamas, Bachelor Media

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