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Sat, March 28

Urgent care centers part of effort to test high-risk patients

Prescott Valley Urgent Care. (Courtesy)

Prescott Valley Urgent Care. (Courtesy)

More medical providers are starting to join the effort to collect specimens for COVID-19 testing at the area’s two commercial laboratories — LabCorp and Sonora Quest — but still-limited supplies require facilities to keep strict protocols about who is eligible for a test, providers and health officials said.

NextCare, an urgent care facility with centers in both Prescott and Prescott Valley, started offering tests two weeks ago, and on a daily basis have gone from zero tests in a day to a high of five, said clinical manager Jennifer Cunning. With more people beginning to show symptoms, though, Cunning said those numbers could go higher as long as the patients qualify based on Centers for Disease Control Prevention high-risk patient criteria.

The Yavapai County Community Health Services is directing prospective patients who meet CDC criteria to either contact their primary care doctor for where to go to be tested, or to visit the NextCare facilities in Prescott and Prescott Valley. For other information about COVID-19 coronavirus concerns, call the Yavapai County Emergency Phone Bank Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 928-442-5103.

Other known testing facilities:

• Yavapai Regional Medical Center east and west campuses.

• Northern Arizona Healthcare in the Verde Valley.

• Thumb Butte Medical Center in Prescott.

• Spectrum Healthcare in Prescott and Verde Valley.

• Community Health Center of Yavapai — three locations — Prescott, Prescott Valley and Cottonwood

• The Prescott VA.

• Yavapai Pediatrics.

High-risk patients are those who are 65 or older or have a compromised immune system, or are travelers or those who have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

The collection kits provided through the area’s laboratories are not the issue, but there is a limit on swabs such that not everyone who wants to get a test can have one, Cunning said. NextCare was fortunate that it had some supplies prior to this outbreak that it has been able to utilize for this purpose, she said.

So far, Cunning said, her two centers have been able to provide tests to those who required them based on the screening criteria.

Yavapai County Community Health Services Epidemiologist Stephen Everett said his office “honestly don’t know who has kits and who doesn’t.”

The county has been notified by some providers, including the hospitals, some private medical practices and clinics, but the department does not have to be notified and some may opt to simply request kits from the commercial labs that they do business with on a regular basis.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center now has tents on its campuses where people can go for testing, be it for COVID-19 or for flu and other infectious respiratory illness.

Local Sonora Quest and LabCorp managers are unable to speak to how many tests they are performing on a daily basis. Both labs do specify that they are not collecting specimens. All kits must be ordered and collected by a medical provider. Efforts to reach a lab spokesperson have proved unsuccessful.

Everett advised people to call NextCare or their own doctor if their symptoms fall in the high-risk criteria. Hospital emergency rooms should be reserved for those referred by those other entities.

“Don’t assume that if they are doing them [tests] one day they aren’t doing it all,” Everett said. “It will all depend on when they get the needed supplies and how much.”

Community Health Services is getting an adequate supply of “personal protective equipment” that they are distributing on a regular basis to emergency first responders and medical providers, Everett said.

“We can’t always fulfill everyone’s order 100%, but we should be able to get them something,” he said.

Cunning said she has high hopes that as this virus continues to spread, her centers, as well as other medical providers, are given the supplies to test anyone who needs to be tested. Her true preference would be to have the necessary medical supplies to anyone who wishes to be tested.

“We are seeing people that either for work purposes, or for their own peace of mind, want it,” Cunning said. “I’d love to be able to test everyone, every day all day long. I hope we get to the point that we have all the supplies available to everybody.”

For now, though, that just isn’t the way it is, she and health officials said.

At NextCare, as with the hospital and all providers offering tests, medical staff is striving to keep people with symptoms away from those who might be seeking unrelated health care.

Calling ahead is preferred, but if someone does show up at the door, Cunning said staff will do a screening and if the person meets criteria for a test they will be given a mask and allowed to wait in their car until they can safely be escorted through a separate entrance into a safe testing space.

As for testing results, Cunning and county health officials said the timeframe is almost a week given the uptick in the numbers that are being performed statewide.

On Monday afternoon, the official health department tally statewide was 326 confirmed cases, four confirmed in Yavapai County. To date, 102 tests have been performed, 85 negative and 14 more pending.

Cunning assured that this is not a time for competition between providers. This is a time for all to come together for the public health of all.

“We want people to know there are all of the options so that as many people get serviced and get taken care of as possible,” Cunning said. “And we want people to feel safe. We want to them to feel safe coming to the clinic, to know we’re taking these measures and offering separate entrances to protect people.”

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