Arizona Is Awash in COVID-19 and Testing Is a ‘S***show’

Two weeks ago, Brett Barry walked into a CVS near his home in Phoenix to get a coronavirus test. Barry, a 55-year-old professional “mentalist”, had a tooth implant scheduled for the next week, and his dentist’s office required a negative COVID-19 test result before the surgery. It took three days just to schedule a testing appointment, and the pharmacy said it could be up to a week before his results came back. But a week went by, and Barry’s dentist appointment came and went, and the results did not show up.

As of yesterday, 14 days after Barry was tested for the coronavirus, he still had not received his results.

In Arizona—which began reopening in early May, only to lock down again after being hit with a tidal wave of cases—the testing infrastructure is underwater. Residents like Barry are waiting up to two weeks for results, while others are waiting up to 13 hours just to get tested. The top testing lab in the state said it is receiving double the amount of orders it can handle. And a crucial testing instrument isn’t arriving until August.

“What really pisses me off is I sheltered [in place] for three months,” Barry said, adding that he has diligently been wearing a mask in public since April. “And now it looks like we’re going to have to start over again.”

In recent weeks, Arizona has climbed to No. 8 on the list of states with the most confirmed coronavirus cases, passing 100,000 on Monday. On Tuesday, the state hit a record high number of deaths in a single day. Ninety percent of ICU beds are full, and some hospitals are reportedly shipping patients out of state.

Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix, has even called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to step in, saying her city is in a “crisis related to testing.”

“I’ve been spending time begging everyone from Walgreens to open up testing, out-of-state testing companies to come in, because it’s awful to see people waiting in a car while you’re feeling sick,” she told ABC’s Martha Raddatz this weekend. “And this is as many months in.”

Arizona Chief Operating Officer Daniel Ruiz told The Daily Beast that test results could take anywhere from one or two days to a high of five or seven, calling the upper end of the spectrum “really frustrating, from a public health standpoint.” But the website for Sonora Quest Laboratories, which handles 80 percent of testing in the state, says most patients should expect to wait at least six or seven days for results. A voice message for the follow-up line at CVS Minute Clinics, where Barry was tested, gives a similar wait time.

Asked about wait times of two weeks that Barry experienced, Ruiz said he had seen similar reports but did not think this is the average. “Anything over five days to us is frustrating and it’s something we want to turn the tide on,” he said.

But Lauren Berold, the office manager for Barry’s dentist, said the bulk of their patients are waiting anywhere from a week to 10 days for test results. She said she had already rescheduled three appointments because patients could not get their results in time for the procedure. On the Tuesday after the Fourth of July, when the office would usually have two surgeries lined up, the schedule was empty for fear that patients would not get their results over the holiday weekend.

“It’s really hard scheduling because you’re kind of playing this guessing game,” Berold said. “It feels like it’s kind of this rollercoaster.”

The testing delay also poses broader public health problems. According to Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, positive test results are the easiest way to convince someone to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus. And the sooner an infected patient receives those results, he said, the sooner they will take preventative measures.

“People who don’t know their infection status could go out and continue to spread, particularly to older people,” he told The Daily Beast. “They may not access medical care as early, because people may not be as aware or concerned that they actually have a true infection.”

Source: Daily Beast