Arizona Misses July COVID-19 Test Processing Goal

Published: Friday, July 31, 2020 - 2:55pm
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Arizona is trying to speed up its COVID-19 testing, but the state did not achieve its goal of processing 35,000 tests per day by the end of July. 

Public health experts say speed in test results is critical to slow the spread of COVID-19. An infected person may unknowingly to pass the disease to others if they aren't aware they have tested positive. And until positive cases are confirmed, health departments can't begin contact tracing to identify more potential cases. 

Sonora Quest Laboratories, which processes the majority of the state’s tests, is taking up to nine days to return results, according to its website. 

“We still continue to see delays, which is frustrating for public health because we would like to get those turnaround times faster so that we can do the contact investigations and make a difference in slowing the spread,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

Weeks ago, Gov. Ducey announced funding to acquire new test processing equipment for Sonora Quest. The goal was for the laboratory to process 35,000 tests per day by the end of July and 60,000 per day by the end of August. 

The lab had a backlog of 29,000 tests as of Thursday. But Christ said the lab should be able to clear its backlog by Sunday as new lines of equipment that can process about 6,000 tests at a time are activated.

“There are multiple lines that they have to install, so they’ve been bringing those lines up and validating those lines every couple of days," Christ said. 

The lab doesn’t expect to be able to reach 30,000 tests per day until Aug. 9. But it still says it will be able to process 60,000 per day by the end of the month and to reduce test result times to 48 hours or faster. 

As of Friday, Arizona ranked 39th among states for the number of tests performed per 1,000 residents, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation

→ Months Into Pandemic, Challenges Remain For Arizona's Contact Tracing Efforts

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