COVID-19 testing

AG Warns Brooklyn Lab to Stop Advertising 48-Hour COVID Test Results

The attorney general's office alleges LabQ has been falsely advertising 48-hour turnaround times on tests, when some customers have waited twice as long or more

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Brooklyn lab with mobile COVID testing sites across New York City received a stern warning from the attorney general's office -- stop advertising quick turnaround times on tests you can't meet.

The AG's office sent the warning letter late Monday to LabQ, which boasted on its website of the "fastest turnaround track record in the entire TriState area."

According to the letter, LabQ testing sites have been advertising results in 48 hours or less, but some consumers have recently waited more than twice that long.

The warning comes amid a sharp spike in COVID testing throughout the region, with cases doubling in a matter of days as the omicron variant spreads.

"We appreciate that there is undoubtedly an increase in demand for COVID-19 testing due to the holidays and Omicron variant. However, it remains important, especially during the holidays, to advertise and otherwise convey accurate information to consumers about when they can receive their test results so that they can plan accordingly," the letter reads.

The AG's office asked LabQ to update its website and signage, and to instruct staff to provide "accurate information concerning wait times."

As of Tuesday morning, a large banner across the top of LabQ's website advises patients to "please allow 1 to 4 days for results" due to a sharp increase in testing. It was not immediately clear when that banner was added; a version of the website archived by the Internet Archive on Dec. 16 did not have the banner. Later in the evening, it changed again to read "1 to 5 days."

LabQ, when initially contacted for comment via its website, sent back what appeared to be a form response for customers, blaming both the volume of test demand and a recent Amazon Web Services outage for a backlog and delays. The email indicated the expected wait time for tests is now 72-96 hours.

LabQ later said in a statement that their test turnaround times "have been impacted by surging demand for COVID testing. In anticipation of higher holiday demand we adjusted staffing accordingly but the seemingly rapid spread of the Omicron variant has pushed demand even higher and strained our capacity. We apologize to our patients as, like other labs, our turnaround times have slipped to as much as 5 days."

The statement went on to say that Lab Q is aiming to get return times "back to the 24-36 hour range we have consistently maintained in the past."

Daniel Adar, the COO of LabQ, said in a phone interview with NBC New York that they did increase staffing recently, and are working to bring return times back down.

"It's important to us and it hurts to not be able to provide the normal time frame that everyone's accustomed to for LabQ results. We understand what it means to everybody on the streets and with the holidays and the omicron surge," Adar said, adding that they are still saying results will get back within five days even as volume has "gone up tenfold."

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