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Drive-through testing for coronavirus coming soon for Arizonans, officials say
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Drive-through testing for coronavirus coming soon for Arizonans, officials say

From the Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 665 cases in Arizona, COVID-19 deaths in Pima County rise to 4 series

Gov. Doug Ducey and Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ answer questions at the UA’s Health Sciences Innovation Building. “COVID-19 is a challenge unlike any we’ve faced as a state or a nation, and we need everyone to pitch in,” Ducey said Tuesday.

Editor's note: With our coronavirus coverage, the Star is not trying to alarm the public but to provide up-to-date information so you can make educated decisions about your health. Because of this, we’ve made all coverage related to COVID-19 free. Help us continue this important work by subscribing to the StarClick here to see the latest coronavirus updates in Southern Arizona.  

Banner-University Medical Center and other health-care sites will soon have drive- thru screening locations to allow symptomatic Arizonans to be tested for coronavirus, the state’s chief health official said Tuesday.

“In order to support this activity I have issued a standing order that will allow symptomatic Arizonans to receive screening at these sites,” said Cara Christ, director of Arizona Department of Health Services, during a news conference with Gov. Doug Ducey and Tucson medical leaders at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Innovation Building.

The standing order allows patients to receive a test without a physician’s request for one. This only applies to the drive-thru sites, according to the health services department.

“The drive-thru has actually already started — Banner did a soft run up in Phoenix yesterday to identify what they would need to do in order to improve and expand to additional sites,” said Christ. “TGEN partnered with one of the health-care partners up in Flagstaff and also offered a drive-thru.”

Arizona, as of Tuesday afternoon, had 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with nine in Maricopa, five in Pinal, four in Pima and one each in Graham and Navajo counties.

The Arizona State Public Health Lab has tested 221 individuals, has ruled out the virus in 142 people and has 66 tests pending. This number doesn’t account for testing conducted in private commercial labs.

“We do know there are national shortages of the test reagents which could delay the time a lab is returning results,” Christ said. “We work on a daily basis to try and gather that information, but we don’t have the total number of people who are actually being tested through our commercial labs.”

Currently, about 2,000 tests can be completed a day as state health officials explore options for expansion.

However, the state is already seeing staff shortages, according to Christ, with some employees already working overtime hours.

There’s also the national shortage of masks, but more are expected next week from Strategic National Stockpile, which will provide masks, gowns and gloves, she said.

But there’s no word as of yet on shipments of ventilators for those in critical care.

As testing continues, Banner Health and Sonora Quest (Laboratories) opened their first patient testing sites to “increase the speed and viability” of the testing, said Ducey, adding that LabCorp, TGEN, Mayo Clinic and Arup are also testing Arizonans privately.

Christ said the goal is to continue mitigating the spread of the virus and lessen the effect on those with the highest risk, such as older adults and people with serious medical conditions.

She detailed new guidelines, such as avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people, instead of the 50 previously cited.

Tucson Medical Center is taking increased precautions, said the hospital’s chief medical officer, Rick Anderson.

“We’re putting what we feel as necessary measures to prevent increased visitors into our hospital as a way to protect our staff and patients,” said Anderson.

“Be aware that we are watching and making sure that people entering the building are screened and don’t have signs of COVID-19.”

Ducey also used Tuesday’s event as a call to action for Arizonans as donated blood supplies reached “dangerously low” levels and food banks need increased community support.

State health officials are working to address issues of safely extracting blood during the coronavirus outbreak.

“COVID-19 is a challenge unlike any we’ve faced as a state or a nation and we need everyone to pitch in,” Ducey said.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1.

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