Officials from the Pima County Health Department confirm a new presumptive positive COVID-19 test, with six more tests pending for the county at the Arizona Department of Health State Laboratory in Phoenix, as of Friday, March 13.
However, local health officials said the number of people being tested for the virus in Pima County changes daily and the number does not give an accurate representation of how many cases are actually pending in the county.
“The count changes daily and those changes reflect both the completion of a test and the addition of a test,” said Aaron Pacheco, community relations manager for the Pima County Health Department. “It could be six tomorrow too, but that might mean one got closed out and one got added. So it’s not a good way of tracking the overall activity.”
Pacheco also said the health department’s number of tests pending doesn’t take into account third-party testing from companies like LabCorp. and Sonora Quest Laboratories. But Pacheco points out the health department also doesn’t keep track of the number of people currently being tested for something like Hepatitis A, either. What they do keep track of is the number of confirmed cases, Pacheco said.
“The number we are tracking is specifically how many (pending tests in Pima County) are at the Arizona State Laboratory at this point, Pacheco said. “But the number of positives is still reportable. No matter how that test becomes positive, we still get notified. We’re not out of the loop.”
The Arizona State Health Department currently has up to 800 COVID-19 test kits and the state lab can process up to 450 tests a day, according to Chris Minnich, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Health Services. Previously the department only had 300 test kits less than a week ago.
“We have a supply test up to 800 people right now. The capacity at the state-wide lab is we can test 450 a day,” Minnich said. “But I can also tell you that several private labs have come online recently so we’re not the only ones testing public health samples.”
The Pima County Health Department does not have any test kits or a testing lab on site. Instead, county health officials will take a nasopharyngeal swab from a suspected virus carrier and then send the swab sample to the state lab to be tested, according to Paula Mendel, deputy director of the Pima County Health Department.
“At this point we’re not doing any testing but this is such a fluid situation,” Mendel said. “What I can tell you is today might be totally different by the end of the day or next week.”
There is no charge to the public for a COVID-19 test through the state and local health departments, according to Pacheco.
"There is no cost to the patient for the testing done on a state level. It's all being done as a part of public health," Pacheco said.
However patients will have to meet the criteria and have a doctor's referral to have a test taken. A personal physician could refer a patient to a third-party testing laboratory, even if the patent doesn't meet the state's criteria.
"When we look at someone we feel is not so much of a risk because they are only exhibiting signs of the cold or flu," Mandel said. "But if for some reason their provider wants them tested, then maybe they should be tested by the other two agencies (Labcorp. and Sonora Quest)."
At this time, 143 Arizonans are being tested for COVID-19, with three confirmed positive cases and seven presumed positive cases in the state, with one presumptive case of coronavirus in Pima County, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services website.
UPDATE 6:25 P.M.: A second presumptive case of COVID-19 has just been announced by Pima County Health Officials. Pacheco defines "presumptive" as a case that came back positive from the state, but has not been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control.