NBA says it's adding coronavirus testing resources in Florida, not taking them away from the community

Key Points
  • The average time to receive Covid-19 results has increased to at least 7 days for some labs. 
  • The lab working with the NBA said it's adding resources in Florida labs and health care facilities. 
  • The NBA said it's launching a mobile testing facility next week. 
Here's the breakdown of Covid-19 testing turnaround times
Here's the breakdown of Covid-19 testing turnaround times

Frequent coronavirus tests are part of the daily routine in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

The league is dependent on rapid results that are typically returned in 12 to 15 hours, according to reports. Players are testing every other day, according to an NBA Health and Safety document obtained by CNBC, and the NBA has tested all 322 players since they arrived in Orlando. Two players who tested positive for Covid-19 have since left campus to quarantine.

With testing every other day through October 13th, an estimated 17,000 tests will be done just on players. That number does not include NBA league staff, coaches, and others in the Orlando bubble.

Yet, outside the bubble, there's growing frustration about how long it's taking at-risk patients to receive Covid-19 results.

Cases surge in Florida 

Coronavirus cases are surging in Florida. Last week, on average there were more than 10,000 cases per day reported. The sunshine state is expected to reach 300,000 total cases this week.  A new daily record of 132 people died on Tuesday in relation to COVID-19 the state reported. 

WKMG recently reported that senior citizens who were tested through BioReference Laboratories, which recently replaced Quest Diagnostics as the NBA's laboratory, waited over a week for their results.

"There's a need for faster results," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news conference on Monday. "When people go through, a lot of times they're not getting their results back for seven days. Obviously we want to improve that."

BioReference told CNBC its results are now being returned in 72 hours or less. But, the delay raised new questions about whether players were being prioritized over the community.

When asked if the NBA's results are being prioritized, a BioReference spokesperson said under contractual terms they are not able to comment further.

"Our commitment is if a patient is in the hospital, if they're in the intensive care if they're a healthcare worker, if they're a front-line worker, those people go to the front of the line, we've always done that since March 13th when we started our COVID testing, and we continue to do that today," Dr. Jon Cohen, Executive Chairman of BioReference, told CNBC's Power Lunch.

Cohen said the turnaround time depends on logistics such as when the specimen is taken, which lab it goes to and which batch it goes into.

"We've actually increased the amount of resources we are providing to the state of Florida," he added. The company's 72-hour-or-less turnaround time outside the NBA bubble had increased because BioReference had to divert resources to testing critical nursing home patients, Cohen said.

Michael Pellini, managing partner at venture capital firm Section 32 and former chairman and CEO of diagnostics company Foundation Medicine, said testing needs to speed up.

"Testing must come back in 24 hours, or 48 hours at most, for it to be really useful," Pellini said. "Even 3 days is just too long."

But BioReference can only run 40,000 tests a day. Cohen said he hopes to reach 100,000 tests per day within the next 4-6 weeks.

The NBA will pitch in

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league will launch a mobile testing site and host a drive-through testing event that will be open to the public next week that will provide thousands of tests.

"BioReference has brought new testing capacity to its laboratory in Central Florida in order to manage NBA and local testing needs simultaneously and ensure that tests in Florida supporting hospitals and patients are not diverted from the community," the NBA said in a statement.

The league said it's researching more accessible testing through partnerships with Yale and the Mayo Clinic. 

Individual teams are permitted to use other testing programs as long as the tests meet league guidelines and are approved beforehand. But, if an outside lab is used, they have to prove that testing an NBA team doesn't detract from the tests it would otherwise provide at-risk healthcare workers and other priority testing groups in the team's community.

On Monday, Quest Diagnostics said the soaring demand for tests is causing the average testing time for non-priority patients to be 7 days or more. Previously, LabCorp was delivering their results in 1-2 days, today the average time has increased to 4-6 days. The labs say with more testing and constraints on equipment and supplies, their resources have become strained. 

"We want patients and healthcare providers to know that we will not be in a position to reduce our turnaround times as long as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase dramatically across much of the United States," Quest said in a statement. "This is not just a Quest issue. The surge in COVID-19 cases affects the laboratory industry as a whole."