The lines, which have been stretching for hours in emergency care locations in New York City over the past few weeks, are not going to go away anytime soon, said Dr. Jeffrey Le Benger, CEO of Summit CityMD, told CNBC on Friday.
Of the roughly 34,000 patients Summit CityMD sees daily in New York and New Jersey, about 70% are related to Covid, Le Benger said. And a lot of it is people trying to get tested for Covid-19.
"These lines will continue until a vaccine comes out and until the nice weather comes," said Le Benger in "Squawk on the Street". "We're being flooded and trying to take care of all of these patients who visit us. We have lines around the block."
The demand for testing has increased in recent weeks as people try to get tested for Covid-19 before traveling to their family on vacation and because the virus is spreading faster across the country. The surge in demand is again putting a strain on the country's ability to perform molecular PCR testing, the so-called gold standard for diagnostic testing.
Summit CityMD, founded last year following the merger of Summit Medical Group and CityMD, operates around 200 emergency clinics in New York and New Jersey. The company hired over 1,000 new team members during the pandemic to meet the increased demand for its services.
"We need to place all of these patients with our first-party providers while maintaining their health and health," said Le Benger. When asked if testing demand in the New York area would remain high after Thanksgiving, he replied, "Absolutely."
"I think we are unfortunately facing a very difficult time with the pandemic," he said. "And I think that will unfortunately stay that way until summer."
The company runs more than 15,000 Covid tests every day, Le Benger said. But it is not enough to meet demand.
"Our emergency units have been extraordinarily busy for months, seeing millions of patients for typical emergency needs, as well as an increasing number of people seeking a medical evaluation and COVID-19 test," CityMD said in a message to patients earlier this month. "As you may have noticed, long lines are a daily fact at almost every CityMD as we are seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the area."
Summit CityMD offers three types of Covid-19 tests: a rapid antigen test, an antibody test and a molecular PCR test. Rapid antigen tests detect current Covid-19 infection and are best used to test symptomatic people. However, the accuracy of antigen tests can vary, especially in some situations and in people with no symptoms.
Antibody tests will detect a previous infection. PCR tests detect viral material in a person and are the most consistent and accurate type of test on the market. However, they are exposed to a supply chain that is now causing delays in lead times.
According to Le Benger, Summit CityMD is working on new software so that patients don't have to stand in line outside to get their Covid test. But he urged people to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow public health guidelines to reduce demand for Summit CityMD's services.