Two restaurants with outdoor seating flank the entrance to the apartment where Pierette Imbriano’s family lives in Brooklyn – and it kind of freaks her out.

“We're literally like scooching out of our apartment, while people are sitting there eating with no masks, and when they walk up and stand around waiting, they’re often not wearing masks, too,” Imbriano said. “It's pretty anxiety inducing.”

With the omnipresent possibility of exposure to coronavirus in the back of their minds, the family decided they needed to get COVID-19 tests, because they had been planning an extended trip to Narragansett to visit Imbriano’s mom for most of August. Rhode Island doesn’t require tests or quarantine for people from New York, because COVID rates here are so low. But Imbriano wanted to be extra careful around her mother.

“She's on the high-risk side, just by age,” she said. “Mind you, she would never say that -- and I would never tell you her age.”

Imbriano’s 11-year-old daughter got tested at their pediatrician’s office and got negative test results the next day. The two parents went together to CityMD. They got swabbed in the same room at the same time. Her husband got his negative test results back in five days, shortly after they arrived in Rhode Island – and two weeks later, she’s still waiting for hers.

So the family is in limbo, keeping their distance from grandma. They’re at her place, but not exactly.

“We’re very fortunate, because she has a separate rental apartment, with a separate entrance, but we’re not interacting at all,” Imbriano said. “It’s very frustrating.”

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Officials say stories like Imbriano’s are much less common than they were a month ago, with average turnaround time for test results now close to three days statewide and two days in the city. But people are still struggling to figure out where is the fastest and least invasive place to get tested, and they’re confused by the wide range in waiting times, which can vary dramatically even at the same testing site.

The city and the state both offer online directories of testing sites, but neither tells you how quickly results are available.

Gareth Rhodes, the testing czar for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said the state monitors turnaround times closely, but they focus on the labs that process the tests, not the testing sites, which send samples to a variety of labs. His office declined to share their turnaround time data with Gothamist/WNYC. He said the information would not be useful to the public.

“I don't want the state to say, ‘The tests that were run yesterday by Bio-Reference sites were turned around this quickly,’ and then someone goes to a site based on that, and tomorrow they're running longer,” Rhodes said, referring to a large commercial chain of testing labs.

Instead, he said, people should contact testing centers and ask them for their turnaround time -- something that is often impossible, especially at the largest networks of testing sites.

The Cuomo administration has helped develop a network of 250 state-certified labs for COVID-19 testing and has touted its prescience for doing so. This testing capacity, Cuomo has said, is crucial to preventing and containing outbreaks, and it insulates New York from surges in testing demand as the coronavirus flares up around the country.

But despite all these labs available in state, many of the large testing sites that people go to the most are still at the mercy of outbreaks elsewhere. CityMD, Health + Hospitals, Northwell Health, ProHealthCare have dozens of places to get tested around the state – but they all send some or most of the samples they collect to the same three national “reference labs,” as they’re called, that much of the country uses: Quest Diagnostics, BioReference Laboratories and LabCorps.

Northwell, for instance, has collected up to 8,000 tests a day at its hospitals, clinics and urgent care centers, and can currently process about 6,000 daily at its main lab on Long Island. At the peak of the outbreaks across the Sun Belt, they were telling local customers that turnaround time was anywhere from two days to two weeks – because if the sample got processed in-house, it would be relatively quick, but if it went to Quest Diagnostics, all bets were off.

“Once we found out that there was a two week backlog there, we immediately stopped sending to them,” said Dr. Dwayne Breining, Northwell’s director of pathology and laboratory medicine. “We tried to do some more of it in-house … and used some of the other commercial lab partners that we work with.”

The shift from Quest to Bio-Reference and other labs, Breining said, combined with slowly decreasing demand from around the country, now has Northwell turnaround times down to one week or less for tests that aren’t medically urgent.

Health + Hospitals, which offers tests at its 11 hospitals and dozens of clinics and mobile sites around the city, but relies on commercial labs to process 90 percent of them, also largely shifted away from Quest to Bio-Reference and other labs. Nevertheless, New Yorkers arriving at a Health + Hospitals testing site in Red Hook on Tuesday were told that the wait time for COVID-19 test results would be anywhere from five to ten days.

CityMD, which has a testing contract with the city, did not return calls seeking comment. Receptionists not authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the company said average turnaround times are down from their recent peak, but are still up to 10 days – though Pierette Imbriano, on Day 14 as of this writing, still has not been able to get an answer from CityMD.

Rhodes, from Cuomo’s office, said that the many small labs are indeed beefing up overall processing capacity and protecting New York from testing floods elsewhere – but these labs are serving smaller, more local testing centers, rather than the large networks many people are more familiar with.

“Most of these labs are within hospitals or within universities or within smaller medical centers,” he said. “Their business is not, ‘We put up a billboard and run tests.’ Their business is patient care.”

Dr. Ian Leber, chief medical officer at the ProHealthCare network of primary care practices and urgent care centers, said they’re trying to do more tests in-house and send fewer to outside labs – and the ones Rhodes is talking about aren’t a good option.

“With the amount of time it would take us to start researching one of the newer labs that were authorized to do this – it would actually be quicker for us to get up and running and do it on our own,” Leber said.

To that end, they’re outfitting their urgent care centers with all-in-one testing units about the size of a paperback. The manufacturer provides them free, and then charges for the swabs and processing chemicals. The setup delivers results within 15 to 30 minutes.

“Our goal is to greatly reduce the amount of send-outs we have to do,” Leber said.

Technology is evolving quickly.

Saliva tests, rather than nasal swabs, are becoming cheaper, faster, more accurate and more widespread. Last week, New York health officials approved a saliva test developed by SUNY Upstate Medical Center, in Syracuse, that pools tests into large batches that can be tested at the same time. This is more for mass surveillance, than individual testing, but other saliva tests are expected to make inroads into the retail market, too, including an open-source test recently announced as a joint development between Yale University and the NBA.

“For anyone who’s gotten the nasal swab, this should be exciting,” Rhodes said.