As COVID-19 testing numbers increase, Embry Health hopes to expand services

Aug 30, 2021, 4:05 AM

MESA – The waiting line for Embry Health’s COVID-19 testing at Mesa Community College is a labyrinth of orange traffic cones guiding cars to a designated point where a health care worker takes down drivers and passengers’ personal information.

A nose is swabbed. The car leaves. The process is repeated.

It’s in such parking lots across Arizona that Embry Health’s testing numbers have jumped 1,000% from July 1 to Aug. 18.

On Friday, Arizona passed more than 1 million cases of COVID-19, and the state’s Arizona’s COVID-19 testing numbers are in the top half of the country. The Kaiser Family Foundation ranks the state 14th in total number of tests with results and in daily tests per million people. The positivity rate was 8.1%, the survey said.

Embry Health started offering COVID tests in March 2020 after CEO Raymond Embry rerouted resources from Embry Women’s Clinic in Mesa.

According to Embry Health, school reopenings are the biggest change in this year’s uptick in testing compared with last year. The increases aren’t isolated to one area but spread across Embry’s more than 50 locations.

“You see students, you see young ones, you see 5-year-olds, 10-year-olds, 13-year-olds and why? It’s because they’re at school,” said Miguel Pedraza, Embry Health’s manager of logistics.

Pedraza noted the increased numbers also are a result of testing children of all ages.

“We’ve seen that, for example, at one school, they had one student who tested positive and the whole classroom of 35 students had to come and get tested,” Pedraza said.

For Jessica Rigler, assistant director at the Arizona Department of Health Services, the bump in testing numbers is an encouraging sign because getting tested is more normalized than in the early days of COVID-19, which was first detected in Arizona in late January 2020.

“To me, that signals that people either are concerned that they’ve been exposed or they’re experiencing symptoms, and they’re taking that step to get tested,” Rigler said.

She added that a positive result allows people to take action by isolating at home and notifying others they may have exposed.

The testing site at Mesa Community College is Embry Health’s largest in Arizona.

“Our goal is to get it up to about six lanes,” Raymond Embry said. “Right now, we have a total of two lanes operating. But it looks like patients are probably waiting between 30 and 45 minutes right now.”

The wait times at smaller Embry testing sites, however, have been longer, in some cases multiple hours. Despite this, Embry encouraged Arizonans to take the time.

“We believe in most cases that having a wait is, in fact, worth it,” Embry said. “Because at least somebody who desperately needs to get tested will be able to get tested, even if they have to wait.”

To address extended wait times, Embry Health launched an initiative this month to hire 800 workers to spread across all of its testing locations. At least 200 have been brought in through the program.

Embry added that the company also is trying to reach underserved areas through mobile testing and pop-up events.

“Right now, we have 15 separate RVs and vans that we’re working to deploy in the community,” Embry said. “And we expect to have them out there on city streets and at schools by early next week.”

Arizona’s Department of Health Services says COVID-19 test results typically come back in two days. Individual groups like Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute average a 37-hour turnaround, while Embry Health’s can be up to 48 hours.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Seniors in Sun City invited to dance the night away at prom event...

Serena O'Sullivan

Sun City senior center to host prom to fight loneliness, keep older locals healthy

Loneliness can be deadly. That's why Banner Health is inviting seniors in Sun City to join its first prom event for people over 60.

13 minutes ago

A house is blackened after a fire involving two homemade electric vehicles in Phoenix on June 18, 2...

2 homemade electric vehicles catch fire inside garage at Phoenix home

Firefighters doused two homemade electric vehicles that were on fire in the garage of a Phoenix home on Tuesday morning.

47 minutes ago

Stations are set up at an otherwise empty Maricopa County vote center. Maricopa County will operate...

Kevin Stone

Maricopa County reveals more than 220 vote center locations for July 30 primary election

Maricopa County revealed more than 220 vote center locations for the July 30 primary election. Here's how to find one near you.

1 hour ago

Warning label on social media? Arizona experts respond to idea...

Serena O'Sullivan

How could a social media warning label impact Arizona children and teens?

The Surgeon General of the U.S. said on Monday he wants a warning label on social media apps because they hurt young people's mental health.

3 hours ago

Two men are seen with stand-up paddle boards at Tempe Town Lake in this file photo. A search was la...

Body found during recovery operation at Tempe Town Lake

Dive teams on Tuesday morning reportedly recovered the body of a person who apparently drowned at Tempe Town Lake a day earlier.

4 hours ago

Vista of red rocks in Sedona. A Pennsylvania woman hiking with her husband and young daughters died...

Pennsylvania mom hiking with family dies on Sedona trail

A Pennsylvania woman hiking with her husband and young daughters died on a trail in Sedona, authorities said Monday.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

As COVID-19 testing numbers increase, Embry Health hopes to expand services