For many of us, it almost felt like everything else stopped when COVID-19 arrived in U.S. more than two years ago. For those working in the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory operated by ADHS, efforts related to the pandemic were added to the critical diagnostic work they perform every day.
During Medical Laboratory Professionals Week 2022, we recognize these professionals in lab coats who have carried an extraordinary workload since early 2020.
The numbers surrounding COVID-19 are substantial: ADHS and outside labs have processed more than 19.1 million COVID-19 tests – more than 23,000 per day, including weekends and holidays – and more than 72,000 in the past week alone. Some of the more than 11.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been delivered in Arizona have come through the state health laboratory and have been used to supply state-run mass-vaccination sites.
That would be a full day’s work for most of us. It’s just the beginning for our laboratory, which has been operating since 1912.
Last year, more than 81,000 babies were born in Arizona. For the great majority of those, the lab tested for 31 rare and serious disorders and provided oversight for hearing and pulse oximetry screening, two point-of-care tests done at hospital/birthing centers. Those screenings are vital to making sure babies get any specialized care they need before heading home.
The lab’s other daily duties include monitoring for other diseases, opioid testing, and checking water quality, in addition to:
- Pesticide Spills
- Lead poisoning
- Drinking water quality
- Epidemic detection
- Toxic fires
- West Nile Virus
Plus, there is a team of lab staff that inspects clinical, environmental, and marijuana laboratories to promote quality testing.
State public health laboratories serve as the first line of defense in the rapid recognition and prevention of the spread of communicable diseases, while also serving as centers of expertise for the detection and identification of biological agents of importance in human disease. That has included identifying and combating diseases from Malta Fever 100 years ago to H1N1 a decade ago and COVID-19 today.
Thanks to the lab staff who receive the samples, ensure the lab information management systems are functioning, provide critical testing results to physicians, and diligently work to meet the needs and expectations of our customers. Whether it is at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory or a partner laboratory, please take a moment this week to thank a laboratory professional.