The Grapevine

Long Waiting Period For Coronavirus Testing Results In Austin Blamed On Fax Machines

Recently, Austin experienced a drop in coronavirus cases. However, it isn't because they flattened the curve but because of labs using fax machines to report data.

Austin Blames Use Of Fax Machines For Longer Wait Times For COVID Test Results

The city of Austin, Texas, has been experiencing a drop in confirmed coronavirus cases. However, public health officials are saying that it’s no reason to celebrate since the drop isn’t a result of being able to flatten the curve, but because of labs using old and antiquated equipment to report their data.

"I am stunned to hear that the way we are getting the results of the tests on infections is by fax. That's like a third world technology. Most young people don't even know what a fax machine is anymore. This incredibly wasteful, stupid process of putting it on fax paper and faxing it to somebody so that they then have to manually enter it on a computer," Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said.

In fact, Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin Public Health, even admitted in an interview that the agency spends a lot of time every day on manually entering thousands of results in the database since they’re still using actual fax machines that are very slow compared to today’s computers.

"It's not uncommon for us to have a week to 10 days between when a person is tested and when their case is entered in the system so they can be called," Escott said, adding that due to poor equipment, results are far more slower than what the county requires and needs.

According to Escott, state law requires that all of the reports produce by labs should be digital. However, not everyone complies due to lack of funds or some other reasons. Fortunately, Travis County officials are now looking at possible enforcement measures. Shea has also requested Escott to give them the names of the labs that are still using antiquated fax machines at the moment.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked residents to still stay inside their homes, what with the state still grappling with COVID-19.

coronavirus-testing-ap More testing is needed in the United States before the country can reopen, according to a study from Harvard Matthias Schrader/AP

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