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Q&A with top Arizona health official on coronavirus testing, hospitalizations

PHOENIX — Arizona’s top public health official said Wednesday the state is going to continue to expand COVID-19 testing.

Dr. Cara Christ, director for the Arizona Department of Public Health, said the state is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases and testing in the younger population, those 20 to 39 years of age.

Christ spoke with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show to discuss the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, testing issues and hospital capacity concerns.

Here is a sampling of questions and answers from Christ’s interview:

Where are we with availability of testing, and are you satisfied with the testing results so far that we’ve seen?

Christ: We are going to continue to work to expand access to testing in Arizona, and then we saw increased demand for testing. We know that we are also seeing increased cases and people with symptoms. So we are working to bring our big providers up and give them more capacity so that the test results are turned quicker. We’re working with Sonora Quest and LabCorp and those types of partners, but then we’re also working with our healthcare providers for more sites. So we’ve added an additional 50 sites to our website of places where people can go to get tested and we’re continuing to work to develop more sites.

Why do some of the tests take a couple of days, others take seven days? Is there a different? Why the discrepancy in time to get the results back?

Christ: So that’s going to depend on a lot of different factors. If you go to your doctor’s office and they take the test, there’s going to be transit time to the lab. The lab needs to run it. If the lab is processing a lot of tests, there could be a backlog. Then the labs going to give it back to the provider, and then the provider needs to call. Sometimes what we’ve been hearing is people didn’t realize that they needed to log into an online portal to get their results. So really making sure that we’re communicating with people the best way to get their results and then also just making sure that our laboratories have the capacity to be able to run as many tests are needed.

When you look at the data on contact tracing, are we getting good data on where the spread is coming from? With the spike, is it harder to trace?

Christ: So with the spike, it is a little bit harder to trace. What we are identifying is that it is community spread. For the majority of the cases, especially in Maricopa County, what we’re seeing is in our younger populations, so our 20 to 29 year olds, followed by our 30 to 39 year olds, that’s where we’re seeing the biggest increase, not only in testing, but in cases.

Do you have any idea of when we will start seeing a leveling off of this spike?

Christ: Normally, we would start to see an impact a week or two out from when the measures were implemented. So most of the cities and the counties implemented measures on Friday or this past weekend, and so we would probably expect to start seeing them at the beginning of next week and into the week after that, hopefully.

Are you still satisfied with capacity that we have for hospital beds?

Christ: We do still have availability. We are working with our hospitals because we are seeing increased hospitalizations and ICU bed use. So we’re we’re reaching out to our hospitals. We’ve been working with their chief medical officers to identify what types of needs they have in order to make sure that we can continue to utilize that capacity, and then the surge beds that they were able to identify as if we did reach that capacity. So we’re working very closely with our hospital partners and trying to make sure that we do maintain that capacity available.

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