TestMV reported three new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the Island’s total coronavirus caseload to 79 as Quest Diagnostics announced faster turnaround times for testing sites nationwide, including the Vineyard.

The three new cases reported Tuesday are the first in five days and all came from the comprehensive coronavirus testing site at Martha’s Vineyard High School. Four cases were reported on the Island last week, with three of the cases coming from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

While TestMV is testing asymptomatic patients for the virus, the hospital continues to test symptomatic patients and their close contacts.

The three new cases Tuesday include one male and two females, with one person in their thirties, one in their forties and one in their fifties. There have now been 59 people on the Island to test positive for the virus through a PCR (laboratory) test. Twenty other people have tested positive for viral antibodies or been symptomatically diagnosed with the virus - accounting for the 79 total Island cases.

In their daily demographic report, the Island boards of health reported that 8,665 patients have now been tested at the high school site, with 19 patients coming back positive for the virus, 7,892 negative and 754 tests still pending.

The hospital has now tested 3,336 patients for the virus, with 40 tests coming back positive, 3,225 negative and 71 still pending, according to the report. The town of Aquinnah, which has been providing self-administered saliva tests through their boards of health, have tested 81 patients for the virus, none of which have come back positive.

The three new cases reported on Tuesday come as Quest Diagnostics announced that they had cut the turnaround time for tests processed at their facilities to approximately two to three days.

TestMV, which partnered with Quest to process tests that come from the high school site, announced earlier in the summer that a national backlog in testing would cause up to weeklong delays in test results, increasing wait times from about two days to over seven. But last week the testing company said that advancements in test pooling and RNA extraction had cut times to approximately five days.

On Tuesday, Quest put out a release saying that number had been cut further due to significantly increased capacity at its labs, including in Marlboro, where tests from the Island are analyzed.

“We enter the second week of August with significantly increased testing capacity compared to early summer, and are now able to provide up to 150,000 COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests a day compared to 120,000 tests at the beginning of July,” the release states. “We continue to expect to scale up capacity to provide 185,000 tests a day by Labor Day, with further gains possible. As a result, our average turnaround time* for all patients is now down to 2-3 days for incoming specimens. For our priority 1 patients**, the average turnaround time is under 2 days, with the majority being under 1 day.”

Quest added that it would be able to clear up the large testing backlog that the delay in turnaround times created earlier in the month.

“We also expect to complete testing and reporting results by early this week of outstanding test specimens that have waited, in some cases, longer than a week due to the recent surge in demand,” the release states.

TestMV has reported the daily number of pending tests from the site at or above 500 for the past few weeks. Because tests could take up to a week to process, it recently became more difficult for public health officials to accurately track the current number of Covid-positive patients on the Island and to effectively use testing for travelers required to quarantine - both problems that speedier turnarounds on results could alleviate.

Statewide, the Department of Public Health reported 296 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 10 new deaths. Although the average positive testing rate has dropped in recent days, the governor enacted strict rules effective Tuesday that allow public health officials and law enforcement to issue fines for non-socially distant behavior or mask violations. 

The state has reported nearly 113,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and 8,529 residents have died.