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24-hour test: Lab says it can test thousands for COVID-19 per day and produce results in a day

Some clinics in Phoenix are using the tests but because the lab is not federally contracted, patients have to pay for the test out of pocket.

PHOENIX — Every day, we report on the latest number of coronavirus cases in Arizona, but the reality is, the true number of people with the virus is unknown because of the limited number of tests. Not everyone has the ability to get one.

That's why some private clinics are turning to a Texas-based lab for an alternative test. It requires a saliva sample, and the test's maker says his lab can test thousands of people per day and give them results almost immediately.

“I told them I had the symptoms," said Eric Jenkins.

Last weekend, Eric Jenkins was tested for COVID-19 at a Banner Health facility. Now, he says his life is on hold as he waits for results.

RELATED: Where are my results? Arizonans getting swabbed for COVID-19 but not getting answers

“Just sitting here waiting and not knowing, it can be very frustrating," Jenkins said.

Jenkins, like most, won't get results for about a week. That's why some doctors like Frank Agnone are using a test from MicroGen Diagnostics.

“Reflecting on the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, we realize that testing more can be very helpful," said Dr. Frank Agnone of Internal Medicine Physicians Associates. 

Agnone says he has worked with MicroGen Diagnostics for years. Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the genetic sequencing for COVID-19, the CLIA-certified lab came up with its own test, able to turn test results around in 24 to 48 hours.

“We quickly realized there was going to be a need," said MicroGen CEO Rick Martin.

Martin says his lab can produce test results with the traditional nasal swab but their other test requires a spit sample. He says the spit sample is ideal because there is no supply shortage when it comes to collecting that kind of sample. 

RELATED: Commercial labs in Arizona offer mass-scale COVID-19 tests

According to Martin, due to a lag in testing among other standard labs, results might not be accurate. He says because his tests are run immediately, he has identified false negatives.

"We did a live sputum test on these patients and they were positive. So there’s going to be a lot of false negatives out there,” Martin said.

The problem is MicroGen is not federally contracted with FEMA, so patients have to pay for the test out of pocket. At Agnone's Phoenix clinic, the test costs $200.

“Our experience providing patients quick tests is met with great relief," Agnone said.

For many, the quick results are worth the price tag. As Jenkins continues to wait for his results, he hopes this new test is a sign of what's to come so other Arizonans don't have to deal with a delay.

“After waiting about four days, they had no information for me and no turnaround time on this. It’s very frustrating," Jenkins said.

According to Martin, MicroGen has tested nearly 300 Arizonans so far and there have been seven positive cases.

RELATED: Here’s how to get tested for coronavirus in Arizona