Is Arizona Really Last for Coronavirus Testing? The Data Is Incomplete.

By Jessica Swarner

March 27, 2020

The agency’s public report puts the test count at less than 500, but officials say private testing brings the number to nearly 11,000.

State health officials are disputing the conclusions of a New York Times report published Thursday that put Arizona in dead last for the number of coronavirus tests performed relative to the state’s population.

The report, which took testing estimates from the COVID Tracking Project, showed Arizona as only having performed 13 tests for every 100,000 residents. New York, the state ranked highest on the list, has performed 627 tests per capita.

The testing numbers estimated by the COVID Tracking Project are more generous than what is reported on the Arizona Department of Health Services website. While the tracking site claims 957 tests have been performed, the state’s health department only lists 420.

However, the Arizona Department of Health Services says the actual number is off – by almost 10,000. An agency spokesman told The Copper Courier on Friday that private labs have administered 10,357 tests, while the state lab has administered 420. 

That brings the state’s total to 10,777.

The discrepancy comes from a lack of publicly available information. The COVID Tracking Project generates its data from publicly available information from each state, wherein lies the problem – ADHS does not post its full data online

While ADHS provides daily updates of the state’s total number of cases and deaths, which includes results from both private and public labs, it only reports the number of tests administered by the state lab. 

The COVID Tracking Project came to its total by adding the number of the state’s number of positive results – which includes private and public labs – to the number of samples ruled negative, which have only been reported by public labs.

But private labs operating in Arizona are now required to send in their complete testing numbers. Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Monday requiring private labs to report the number of tests they administer to the state, but it’s not clear how that information will be relayed to the public.

The Copper Courier asked ADHS if and when that information will be included on the agency’s dashboard. “We are working now to update our dashboard,” a spokesman replied.  

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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