weather icon Clear

Patients encountering problems with drive-up coronavirus tests

As coronavirus testing ramps up in Las Vegas, some residents have encountered errors and confusion in the swabbing process used to collect samples and even had to return for a second swab despite a state shortage of tests.

Las Vegas resident Roshie Raissi said she started coughing Saturday but didn’t have a fever. She nevertheless decided to try to get tested because her elderly parents are staying with her.

On Sunday, she heard through some friends that Sahara Urgent Care had drive-up tests and drove to the clinic to find that she was the only one in line. A clinic employee came over to her car, asked for identification and swabbed her nostril.

But the next day, after watching a news conference with federal health officials saying the swabbing would be uncomfortable because it would go into the sinus cavity, she called the clinic saying she was concerned the test was not administered properly. She was told to return for another test.

“She was clueless,” Raissi said of the staffer who swabbed her nasal passage. “She did it incorrectly and didn’t put it nearly far enough in.”

On her return Monday, she said the clinic staff gave her priority because she was there for the retest.

Raissi said clinic staff also told her Monday that Quest Diagnostics, a private testing lab, wasn’t maintaining the swab tests at proper temperatures so there might be additional accuracy issues.

Jose Triana, a manager at Sahara, conceded Tuesday that testing has been a learning curve and that they have had to call some patients back to redo the exam. He did not know how many tests the clinic had conducted or how many had to be re-administered. He said the clinic has enough tests for about 250 patients a day.

“We had some mix-ups and (we) reached out to (patients) to have them reswabbed,” he said. “This is all new to us, but we’re moving forward to make sure people can get tested.”

Wendy H. Bost, a spokeswoman for Quest, responded with an emailed statement:

“Without knowing the specifics of the patient’s situation I’m not in a position to comment on this particular case. However, we have communicated to providers our specimen transport requirements for COVID-19 testing. While we prefer that specimens be shipped frozen, if the provider does not have dry ice, the specimen should be refrigerated (2° C-8° C). Specimens have a 72-hour stability refrigerated.” That translates to 35.6 to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Long waits

Vivian Levisman of Las Vegas said she had been coughing and experiencing shortness of breath since Thursday so she decided to go to Sahara Urgent Care first thing Tuesday after learning it had tests.

Despite coming in before the clinic opened, Levisman said there were more than 30 cars in front of her at the drive-up testing and she had been waiting for more than two hours.

“It’s horrible,” said Levisman, whose husband is a doctor who treats senior citizens. “They aren’t changing gloves between patients and people are getting out of their cars.”

She said she found Sahara through a group of doctors’ wives trading information by text. She is concerned that the state isn’t publicizing places where people with symptoms can get tested.

At about 11 a.m. Tuesday, police arrived to direct traffic at the clinic, she said.

After two and half hours, Levisman finally received her test, but it will take two to three days to get the results.

Testing promised

On March 7, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp have been provisionally approved to provide testing in Nevada and the Southern Nevada Health District lab will also be getting additional resources to test people with COVID-19 symptoms.

“I agree with Nevada’s residents and their desire to expand testing,” Sisolak said at the news conference, where he declined to take reporters’ questions.

Earlier this week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported complaints about the lack of access to testing have echoed throughout the state, coming from the governor’s office, county health officials and Las Vegas Valley residents, among others.

On Monday, Southern Nevada public health officials promised more resources for processing tests at their lab in Clark County and announced the state had requested federal aid to increase testing in the area.

SNHD spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said she had not heard of issues at Sahara. She recommended people contact their doctors if they need treatment and to be assessed whether they need to be tested.

“Not everyone is advised to seek medical care,” she said. “If you’re having mild symptoms, stay home and stay away from people.”

Sizemore said she did not know how many tests are available in Southern Nevada.

Insurance charges

Raissi said she had heard that the testing would be free, but when she showed up Sunday to Sahara the clinic wanted insurance information or for her to pay. She provided her insurance. President Donald Trump said last week that anyone can get a test, but federal public health officials said it had to be prescribed by doctors. Triana said the Sahara clinic is only providing tests to people with symptoms.

But Triana said Quest has committed to free testing and the request for insurance information was just a “backup” measure. Patients will have to provide identification so the clinic can ensure they know who they are testing, he added.

Raissi said there were no other customers at the clinic when she went Sunday for her drive-through test, but when she returned for her second test Monday it was packed with people and the clinic had set up a tent with tests that they would collect and then walk to people’s vehicles for the swab.

Triana said the clinic is trying its best to test patients to help provide information that will hopefully slow the outbreak. But they only have so many tests.

“It’s really, really busy,” Triana said. “We have a limited supply.”

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Meals on Wheels waiting list skyrockets - VIDEO
Media and community relations director Leslie Carmine discusses changes regarding Meals on Wheels, at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The waiting list for the meals that are delivered directly to homebound seniors in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas has grown up to 2,400. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Residents concerned about recent mailbox break-ins - VIDEO
Checks from the stimulus bill passed by Congress are being sent out this week and next. Some Las Vegas residents are concerned those checks could be stolen out of mailboxes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County will allow the delivery of alcohol, temporarily - VIDEO
Las Vegas officials allowed alcohol delivery to begin late last week in their jurisdiction. Now Clark County is doing the same until April 30, unless the shutdown is extended. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson center opens food bank to public - VIDEO
Visitors to the St. Therese Center HIV Outreach drive-thru food pantry talk about the impact of food banks for their families and friends. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cars line up for over 4 miles for food
Cars were lined up along Sahara Avenue from Palace Station to South Rainbow Boulevard for food distribution sponsored by Three Square and Central Church in Henderson.
Two large fires hit parts of the Las Vegas Valley - VIDEO
Renee Summerour wraps up the two large fire that hit part of the Las Vegas Valley Late Wednesday , early morning Thursday. RJ reporter Glenn Puit was at both scenes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas hotels light up their windows to show support during shutdown - VIDEO
Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip lit up their windows with hearts and messages to show support during the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday night, April 1. (Le'Andre Fox and James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Isolation and quarantine center for homeless at Cashman Center - VIDEO
A new isolation and quarantine center for homeless is under construction at the Cashman Center in downtown Las Vegas, March 31. (K.M Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Day care changes hours and takes extra steps to help guardians - VIDEO
Sarah Washington, whose children attend Discovery Gardens Childcare, shares the importance of the facility’s hour changes, and child care director Ariella Thomas discusses some other changes Discovery Gardens Childcare has made, in Las Vegas on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Elipagephoto
Costco reduces hours at Las Vegas Valley stores, gasoline pumps - VIDEO
Costco announced it will reduce hours at its stores and gas pumps starting Monday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police investigate apparent murder-suicide
Las Vegas police investigate an apparent murder-suicide in the 3900 block of Chasing Heart Way on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Homeless outreach organization feeds people in age of social distancing - VIDEO
Homeless outreach organization Food Not Bombs handed out sack lunches, hygiene kits and blankets on Foremaster Lane in Las Vegas, Thursday, March 26, 2020. Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, which has temporarily closed its dining room and emergency night shelter, also handed out to-go lunches on Foremaster Lane. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada gets an A for social distancing
In an interactive Scoreboard by tech company Unacast, organizations can measure and understand the efficacy of social distancing. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada construction continues as coronavirus spreads
When Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered Nevada businesses closed, he let construction workers stay on the job, deeming homebuilding and other construction “essential” lines of work.
Pedestrian struck, killed in western Las Vegas Valley crash - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed in a crash Wednesday night in the west valley. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police investigate fatal crash in east Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police said a pedestrian was killed when they were hit by a vehicle near Sloan Lane and of East Charleston Boulevard on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seeing teachers at a distance, closed parks and lack of toilet paper - VIDEO
The neighboring towns of Logandale and Overton, northeast of Las Vegas, are experiencing the effects of coronavirus, with closed schools and playgrounds and fewer items in grocery stores. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas residents enjoy the snow at Lee Canyon - VIDEO
Las Vegas residents get out to enjoy the snow at Lee Canyon on Mount Charleston. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Post office stays open amidst shutdown - VIDEO
Mail delivery and services at post offices continues despite the coronavirus crisis. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 person dies in east Las Vegas fire - VIDEO
One person and a dog were found dead after a fire in a detached structure adjacent to a house near East Monroe Avenue and North Betty Lane in east Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Albertsons, Walmart, Amazon increase pay amid coronavirus impact - VIDEO
Grocery stores and other retailers have raised employee pay as they work to meet customer demand during the coronavirus pandemic. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
High winds move clouds across the Las Vegas Valley - Time-lapse video
Isolated showers depart when gusty winds move in probably remain through Wednesday, March 25, when another storm front is expected. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown's Pabst Blue Ribbon neon sign moving to Neon Museum - VIDEO
Yesco workers remove the Pabst Blue Ribbon neon sign at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard on Monday, March 23, 2020. The sign, which has been at the location for five years, will be displayed at the Neon Museum. A museum representative said a replacement neon sign is in the works. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Distance Learning challenges for Clark County School District - VIDEO
Renee Summerour sits down with RJ reporter Aleksandra Appleton to discuss the challenges the Clark County School District is facing with Distance Learning, a program that was slated to begin Monday, March 23. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Deliver with Dignity will give 100 families meals today - VIDEO
“Deliver with Dignity” was created “to bring high-quality meals directly to the most vulnerable families in the Las Vegas Valley, keeping them and the community safe by reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19.” (Facebook/Clark County)
CCSD board holds an emergency meeting on Distance Learning - VIDEO
The Clark County School Board held an emergency meeting on Monday morning, the day that distance learning was supposed to begin at all schools in Nevada. (Clark County School District)
Las Vegas Valley residents make medical masks for health care workers - VIDEO
Anissa Gustafson has spent most of her week sewing masks in an effort to assist health care workers in the Las Vegas Valley who are running out because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coronavirus patients could inundate hospitals - VIDEO
RJ Investigations reporter Michael S. Davidson talks about how a rapid influx of coronavirus patients could soon inundate Nevada hospitals, pushing them past their capacity and threatening health care workers’ safety. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
M Resort donates food surplus to workers - VIDEO
The M Resort donated a surplus of perishable food supplies to team members after the closure of the hotel due to a shutdown of nonessential businesses in Nevada, Friday, March 20, 2020. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Costco reserved earliest hour for seniors - VIDEO
People line up outside Costco in Henderson after the store reserved earliest hour for seniors on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Missing hiker's sister on staying hopeful - Video
Karsta Lucas, the sister of Ronnie Lucas, a hiker missing at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, said Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, that family members remain hopeful the 33-year-old diabetic will be found safe despite spending two nights in the open without his insulin. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Search continues for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Volunteers come out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas to help find a hiker, Ronnie Lucas, who went missing on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Search for missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon - Video
Red Rock Search & Rescue is looked for the missing hiker at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on Monday, Feb. 10, 2010. The man was reported missing on Sunday. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officials celebrate opening of Las Vegas park named for slain officer - Video
Top public officials came together Friday morning to celebrate the grand opening of Officer Alyn Beck Memorial Park in the northwest valley, named after a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2014. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wrong-way driver causes fatal crash near Las Vegas airport, authorities say - VIDEO
A suspected impaired motorist driving the wrong way on the Airport Connector caused a crash that killed another driver near McCarran International Airport early Friday morning, Jan. 17, 2020, according to law enforcement. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The car that Tupac was shot in is for sale - VIDEO
The vehicle that legendary rapper Tupac Shakur was riding in when he was shot after a boxing match in Las Vegas is up for auction. The black 1996 BMW 7 Series is listed by Celebrity Cars Las Vegas for $1.75 million. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas WWII vet kept joking until his death from COVID-19

In his final days, Edward Turken, 96, serenaded his son over the phone with tunes like “Stayin’ Alive” and “California Dreamin’” from his bed in the ICU unit at Summerlin Hospital.

Las Vegas radio host’s case fits emerging COVID-19 pattern

“It’s respiratory arrest in its true form: a sudden type of hypoxia and worsening that requires emergent intubation,” one doctor said of a pattern of rapid decline in COVID-19 patients. Such was the case with a Las Vegas radio host.