Attorney General Orders Sonora Quest To Report Accurate Testing Times

Sonora Quest Laboratories is the state's largest testing provider.
Sonora Quest Laboratories is the state's largest testing provider. Flickr
The Attorney General's office has warned Sonora Quest Laboratories that it may have violated Arizona's Consumer Fraud Act by not disclosing delays in returning COVID-19 test results, and has ordered the company to begin providing accurate information on testing times by Friday.

"It appears that Sonora Quest failed to disclose to consumers and health care providers the material fact that the lab was not providing test results within promised timeframes," wrote Assistant Attorney General Joshua Weiss in a cease-and-desist letter sent on August 5. "Accordingly, Sonora Quest provided consumers and health care providers with inaccurate expected wait times when time and contact tracing was exigent."

Sonora Quest is Arizona's largest laboratory for processing COVID-19 tests. Driven by the rapid spread of the virus in the state and national shortages of testing supplies, the company accumulated a backlog of over 60,000 tests last month, driving wait times to over two weeks. The laboratory has since reported it has cleared the backlog of tests after bringing more processing facilities online, and that it currently has an average turnaround time of two-and-a-half days.

However the damage may already be done. Arizona has seen a decrease in the number of people seeking tests, which experts have attributed to a sense of frustration and futility around long testing delays. Experts have also said that the delays make efforts to protect people through contact tracing pointless.

"The AGO remains concerned that if there is another influx of tests directed to Sonora Quest, the same problems will reoccur," Weiss wrote in the letter.

Attorney General's Office spokesperson Katie Conner said there is a possibility the office could launch an investigation, but the office doesn't confirm or deny investigations. She said the office has sent six cease-and-desist letters related to COVID-19, including to a Phoenix megachurch visited by Trump in June that falsely claimed it had an air filter that would remove the virus from the air.

The letter may signal a harsher approach to Sonora Quest by state officials. At his press conference last week, Governor Doug Ducey called out the company by name, saying they needed to "step up their game."

While the laboratory is the center of the state's "Project Catapult" to expand test capacity, it failed to meet its goals for test processing capacity by the end of July. The company has said it is on track to be able to return tests within 48 hours by the end of August.

Sonora Quest has yet to respond to a Phoenix New Times request for comment.

Read the letter here:
This letter was sent August 5.
Arizona State Attorney General's Office
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Erasmus Baxter was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times.