The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has been closely monitoring COVID-19 spread throughout Arizona. As of today, we have had cases confirmed in all 15 counties for a total of 5,769 cases. 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.
Luckily, we know there is additional capacity at our laboratories across the state to test more Arizonans. Laboratories like Sonora Quest, Arizona State University, and Mayo Clinic have indicated they have the ability to run more tests, and we are fortunate to have partners like them in our community. However, up until now, the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and test collection supplies, such as nasal swabs and viral transport media, has been a significant barrier to increased testing. Arizona is not alone; there continues to be a national shortage of those supplies. The good news is that our partners have indicated they are now able to obtain the supplies needed to perform additional testing because the supply chain is opening up.
In order to ensure that providers and labs can test all Arizonans that want to be tested, we have been working to provide additional support to increase our testing capacity in Arizona:
- Today, we issued updated standing orders, expanding the criteria for testing to anyone who thinks they have been exposed to and could be infected with COVID-19. Previously, this order was limited to high-risk individuals and those with specific symptoms;
- We have partnered with laboratories, such as Sonora Quest Laboratories, TGen, and the University of Arizona to provide additional funding to increase their lab capacity and will continue to work with other partner labs, as needed;
- We have sent out messaging to labs statewide to remove any restrictions on testing if they have adequate testing supplies and PPE;
- We continue to communicate with healthcare providers about expanding testing to all Arizonans; and
- We have distributed 15 rapid testing machines throughout the state that are able to provide results within 15 minutes and we continue to work with our federal partners to get additional testing kits to support these machines.
We have also been working with partner labs that are discussing serology testing, commonly referred to as antibody testing. Serologic tests are laboratory tests that look for the presence of antibodies, which are made by the body in response to an infection. Many factors affect the results of serologic testing and how these results should be interpreted. At this time, it is unknown if a positive serologic test for COVID-19 means that someone is immune to COVID-19 or how long that immunity might last. In the future, we’re hoping that serology testing will be an important tool for screening for prior infection, especially for our healthcare workers and first responders. ADHS will continue to monitor research in this area and make recommendations as evidence becomes available.
ADHS and our local and federal public health partners are focused on containing the spread of this virus and reducing its impact. As we continue with our response, our priorities include increasing testing capacity in Arizona, expanding our case follow up and follow up of their contacts, protecting the health of our healthcare system, and doing all we can to protect our most vulnerable Arizonans. For more information about the COVID-19 response in Arizona, go online to azhealth.gov/COVID19.