Yavapai County coronavirus testing slow, but governor promises kits
Updated as of Monday, March 16, 2020 10:53 PM
Yavapai County may still have no recorded cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but that might be because there is limited testing available in the fourth largest county in the state, according to county health officials.
“There is definitely not enough testing. We’re not getting anything coming, probably because people are not getting tested,” said Yavapai County Community Health Services Epidemiologist Stephen Everett on Monday.
Until test kits reach local commercial laboratories – Lab Corp and Sonora Quest in the Prescott and Prescott Valley areas - the only people able to be tested are hospitalized patients at either Yavapai Regional Medical Center or the Verde Valley Medical Center, according to Yavapai County Community Health Services. The Prescott VA Hospital is following similar protocols for their patients, with screenings of all visitors who come on campus.
Recorded messages at both laboratories now advise prospective patients they “do not collect specimens for the COVID-19 coronavirus.” The messages inform individuals that these tests must be ordered and collected by physicians or other health-care providers.
Much of the public clamor in the greater Prescott area – in conversation and on social media – revolves around the inability to test people who might be infected, particularly those who might be carriers or not be in the highest risk groups but still may be spreading the virus.
So far, hospital testing has been limited to those 65 and older who have traveled to affected areas, or been in contact with someone from those areas, local health officials said. The individual must also show signs of fever, shortness of breath, cough and other respiratory ailments that are not symptoms of some other flu or ailment, they said.
Armed with broader testing knowledge, Everett said he and his fellow health officials can be more proactive in preventing the spread of this virus, he said.
“But until we have lab testing, there’s nothing I can do,” Everett said.
To date, five people in Yavapai County have been tested, none with a positive result. Statewide, Arizona has 18 confirmed COVID-19 virus cases.
On Monday afternoon, Gov. Doug Ducey offered some promising news related to the pandemic.
He assured the area’s commercial laboratories will be provided the testing kits, with those results then able to be forwarded more quickly to the county Health Departments. Primary care medical doctors will still be the ones ordering the tests, but the local laboratories will be able to process them rather than require a wait for results from the state Department of Health laboratories in Phoenix.
Ducey and state health officials want to assure anyone who suspects they might have the virus, or who a physician fears might have it despite a lower risk category, gets tested with prompt results reported to county health officials.
Health officials want anyone who suspects they might be sick with this virus to start with a phone call to their doctor. If the doctor then suspects a patient must be tested immediately, the doctor can then arrange for the patient to go to the hospital. If someone requires emergency room care, the recommendation remains to call ahead so medical staff is prepared.
“We don’t just want people running to the emergency room because they have a temperature,” said David McAtee, the Yavapai County public information officer.
The good news in all of this is that Arizona still has a slow rate of transmission, and so the numbers in the county are likely to remain low, Everett said. People just need to follow proper personal hygiene and avoid scenarios that could make them susceptible. He and others continue to advise prevention not panic.
“We’re definitely not in Italy territory, yet!” Everett assured.
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.
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