COVID-19 Testing to Expand in Arizona as Increases in Cases And Deaths Continue

By Brandy Rae Ramirez

April 23, 2020

With positive COVID-19 cases now at 5,769 and the death toll increasing every day, Arizona is ramping up testing.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced Thursday that it’s expanding COVID-19 testing in Arizona.

The announcement comes as positive COVID-19 cases in the state increased to 5,769 and 249 deaths. There were 20 additional deaths in a 24-hour period since Wednesday’s update, which is about the daily average this week.

So far, 58,697 tests have been conducted overall, with 2,096 reported for Thursday alone. 

“As of today, we have had cases confirmed in all 15 counties for a total of 5,769 cases,” said ADHS in its press release. “Our commercial labs, hospital labs, and Arizona State Public Health Laboratory continue to provide diagnostic testing and have performed 58,750 tests to date. We know that rapidly identifying cases, case follow up, and contact tracing will help slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities. Success in these areas requires an increase in our testing capacity.”

ADHS officials added that laboratories like Sonora Quest, Arizona State University, and Mayo Clinic have indicated they have the ability to run more tests; however, up until now, the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and test collection supplies, including nasal swabs and viral transport media, has been a “significant barrier to increased testing.”

“Arizona is not alone,” stated the press release. “There continues to be a national shortage of those supplies.” 

However, ADHS claims the state’s partners are now able to obtain the supplies needed to perform additional testing.

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Overall, according to the state health department, it is doing the following to increase testing capacity:

  • Issued standing orders to expand testing criteria for people who think they’ve been exposed to and could be infected with COVID-19. 
  • Partnered with laboratories like Sonora Quest, TGen, and the University of Arizona to provide additional funding for increased lab capacity.
  • Sent out messaging to labs statewide to remove any restrictions on testing to all Arizonans.
  • Distributed 15 rapid testing machines throughout the state that can provide results within 15 minutes.

The state is also working on antibody testing to determine immunity to the virus, health officials said in a separate press release.

In addition to increased testing, Arizona will receive an additional $12.4 million in federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support the COVID-19 response.

“This is an addition to the $16.2 million already received from the CDC during this time,” said ADHS officials. 

The funding priorities include identifying cases, contact tracing and follow up activities, improving morbidity and mortality surveillance, enhancing laboratory testing, and protecting and monitoring the health of Arizona’s healthcare system, health officials added.

“The Arizona response to the COVID-19 outbreak continues to be our top priority, and we will be working with our local public health departments to augment the statewide system for aggressive case investigation and contact tracing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS Director, in a press release. “Our public health strategy is to reduce the spread of the disease, protect those who are most at risk for serious complications, and ensure our healthcare system has the capacity to treat those who need care.”

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