Adelita Grijalva: COVID-19 testing sites needed on Tucson's south, west sides
editor's pick

Adelita Grijalva: COVID-19 testing sites needed on Tucson's south, west sides

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Arizona is dead last among the states when it comes to testing for COVID-19. Gov. Doug Ducey is attempting to address this by working with the Arizona Department of Health Services through a series of “blitz” testing sites that aim to test over 60,000 Arizonans for COVID-19 beginning Saturday, May 2. Tucson’s two testing sites are located at Banner-UMC North Hills Clinic at 265 W. Ina Road and Walgreens at 10315 E. Broadway .

According to recently released data, the largest group of people infected with COVID-19 live on the south side of Tucson in the 85714 ZIP code. Tucson’s only two “blitz” testing sites are more than half an hour away from this area most affected by COVID-19. How does this make sense?

We’ve been told that the reopening of Arizona and Pima County will be a data-driven process. If our testing sites are located far from the communities hit hardest by COVID-19, what are the odds that data obtained at these sites will accurately reflect reality?

Arizona’s population is approximately 7.3 million people, but the latest reports indicate that just 56,801 tests have been administered or .78%. More Arizonans need to be tested and a coordinated contact-tracing system needs to be developed. We need to know the truth — the blunt truth — in order to avoid a premature loosening of restrictions.

“Recovery without equity is not recovery.” This sentence, published in the Arizona Republic in an article written by Dr. Bob England, former acting Director of the Pima County Health Department, resonated with me.

Our communities of color and vulnerable populations are suffering the most in Pima County, Arizona and across the nation. ZIP code 85714 has reported 121 COVID-19 cases as of April 28 — more than double the number of reported cases in other ZIP codes. Other highly affected ZIP codes — including 85706, 85713 and 85745 — are located overwhelmingly on the south and west sides of Tucson.

Last month, Tucson Unified School District was reluctant to close schools through May. During last Tuesday’s TUSD board meeting, we discussed plans that may include not reopening school buildings in August.

Our ability to welcome children back into schools at that time depends on the choices that we make today. These life and death decisions cannot be based on incomplete data, so we must do a more thorough job of gathering accurate information.

In addition to more testing sites, let’s include our community health-care partners as a part of the solution. El Rio Community Health Centers are located throughout our most impacted ZIP codes. They are trusted partners and able to communicate effectively with patients and families in delivering these vital tests. Though, even if the sites are set to be established with only existing partners, there are Banner and Walgreens locations throughout these areas, too.

It is unacceptable that our most impacted neighborhoods are not included in the first wave of testing sites for Tucsonans. There must be immediate expansion of the governor’s testing sites to include these south and west side communities and further testing should be established in additional areas of Tucson as well.

This pandemic is affecting all of us and the recovery will be difficult. Moving forward, it is necessary to collect data that reflects all residents of Pima County. This inclusive information will allow our entire community to be better served.

Adelita Grijalva serves on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board and is a Democratic candidate for the Pima County Board of Supervisors in District 5.

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