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Tue, July 07

Dept. of Health releases new COVID-19 testing guidelines

Coconino County has provided coronavirus test sites at North County HealthCare in Williams over the past two weeks. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Coconino County has provided coronavirus test sites at North County HealthCare in Williams over the past two weeks. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

ARIZONA — The Arizona Department of Health Services is expanding its criteria for COVID-19 testing beyond high-risk people and those with symptoms of the disease, according to a blog post Thursday.

“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,” wrote Dr. Cara Christ, director of ADHS. “Previously, this order was limited to high-risk individuals and those with specific symptoms,” which include a dry cough, fever and persistent fatigue.”

The department reported it has 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,” Christ said.

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.

“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,” she said.

As of April 24, AZDHS is 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.

The organization has also distributed 15 rapid testing machines throughout the state that are able to provide results within 15 minutes and will plans to continue work with federal partners to get additional testing kits to support these machines.

AZDHS has 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.

“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,” Christ said.

She said AZDHS is hoping that serology testing will be an important tool for screening for prior infection, especially for healthcare workers and first responders.

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