Spectrum clarifies different COVID-19 tests, result times


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Getting tested for COVID-19 is pretty common nowadays, but many people wonder why it sometimes takes longer for results to come back.

Officials with Spectrum Health say they have seven different platforms that they run tests on, and the different machines all have different turnaround times.

They say on average, they run around 3,000 to 4,000 tests a day at their sites across West Michigan. More than 400,000 people have been tested since the beginning of March.

However, result times can differ. For an employee, Spectrum’s goal is to have the result back within less than 24 hours but for community members they say it may take a little longer.

“We’re trying to be under 48 hours, so from time of screening to you having the result in your MyChart app on your phone would be less than 48 hours. That is our strive,” said Susan Smith, the senior director of laboratory at Spectrum Health.

Smith also clarified the different kinds of COVID-19 tests they perform and why they choose to use each one. 

First off, there’s the Rapid COVID-19 test, which results can usually be available within 15 minutes. These tests are mainly saved for emergency patients.

For everyday testing, there’s the nasal swab, which a health worker will perform on you in both nostrils. There’s also a test where you can perform it on yourself.

Officials with Spectrum Health say they also perform an NP test, which is the one that goes further up into your nose. They say results for the different tests are very similar.

They prefer to use an NP test if a person is having major symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath, but if someone is having minor symptoms, they’re likely to do the two-nostril swab because it’s quicker and easier.

“Because of the volume of people, we’re seeing, sometimes performing that on the visiting customer is a little more efficient,” said Smith. “So, the source is no different, it’s really just trying to handle it as best we can.”

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