NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The average test times for coronavirus results have fallen from four days in April to 2.7 days in September, but results are still too slow for effective contact tracing, according to a new nationwide survey led by researchers from Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Northeastern, Harvard and Northwestern Universities. 

The survey was published by The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States.

“Despite decreased average wait times, a substantial proportion of Americans still endure long waits,” said co-author Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information

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The survey finds considerable disparities in test times. Black respondents wait almost an entire day more than white respondents for their test results (4.4 days versus 3.5 days on average). The average Hispanic respondent waits 4.1 days. White and Asian American respondents wait an average of 3.5 and 3.6 days, respectively, for their results. 

Only 56 percent of respondents who received a positive coronavirus test say they were contacted for contact tracing. Of those who were contacted, 37 percent say they were contacted by their state government, 28 percent by their local government, 25 percent by the hospital and 8 percent by a non-profit organization.

Thirty-five percent of respondents had to wait at least three days between the decision to get a test and receiving the test. The average person waits 6.2 days between seeking a test and receiving results.

“Delivering results is just one part of the testing process. Many Americans face difficulties accessing tests in the first place,” said Ognyanova.

The researchers polled 52,329 people across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The data was collected in July, August and September 2020 across three surveys.

The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States is a joint project of Rutgers University, Northeastern University, Harvard University and Northwestern University. The consortium has released 17 reports and has charted public opinion related to COVID-19 topics since late April. 

For more information, visit: covidstates.org.