Sonora Quest performs 5 million PCR COVID-19 tests

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Since March 2020, Sonora Quest has been performing PCR COVID tests, 4.9 million in all, including free tests for schools. They did this while still performing general blood tests for cholesterol, hormones and other components..

Sonya Engle, COO of Sonora Quest Laboratories joined us to discuss the achievement of hitting five million tests, what the past two years have been like and what the results of testing have shown about COVID.

“We just got on the other side of the peak period. Omicron really led to a surge volume and demand that we were able to meet thanks to what we call Operation Catapult,” Engle said. “We recognized back in 2020 when the pandemic was really raging across the country and it was really difficult to get reagents, instruments, staff, everything. We were able to come up with a solution that added huge capacity, and enabled us to serve Arizona.”

The Omicron peak saw Sonora Quest performing 35,000 PCR tests per day, with positivity rates as high as 40 percent, Engle said. “Now, the demand has come down quite a bit, and we see positivity  around 10%.”

The rise of Omicron didn’t only impact COVID tests, however. It also lead  to less testing being done for other conditions.

“Patients in some cases have delayed important testing, screening, that could prevent problems like colorectal cancer,” Engle said. “Now that the surge is behind us we’re seeing a return to what we call our ‘base business,’ the cholesterol, the biopsies for cancer, the whole offering that we have we’re seeing an increase but we were seeing a significant impact for a period.”

The pandemic has led to some significant changes in the way medical testing is done, Engle said.

“We saw telemedicine grow, we saw our offering in our ability to digitize grow. An example: In oncology testing, we used to have to move slides around. If a patient needs a second opinion, it can take days, weeks, and a patient can be stuck in the hospital. An innovation that has come out of the past two years is digital pathology, and that’s going to enable us to partner across Arizona to get patients diagnosed faster and give better care,” Engle said.

Additionally, Sonora Quest Laboratories recently partnered with Getlabs to provide at-home blood tests, as well as in-car tests to reduce patient’s exposure to COVID.

Sonya Engle/Chief Operating Officer, Sonora Quest

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