Arizona opens free coronavirus testing surge sites in South Phoenix, Maryvale

Health officials plan to boost Arizona’s coronavirus testing with free screenings in two low-income Phoenix neighborhoods as the state tries to tamp down on rapid growth in infections, state officials said.

As of July 15, Arizona had the nation’s highest rate of positive coronavirus tests, with more than one in four tests detecting the virus, an indication the state doesn’t have enough testing available.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will test up to 5,000 people per day beginning July 17 in South Phoenix and in Maryvale on the city’s west side. Both are areas where people have reported hours-long waits in the scorching heat for tests. The surge in testing is scheduled to last 12 days.

The Department of Health Services says test results will be available through an online portal within 48 hours after the specimen arrives at the lab. The specimens will be shipped overnight to an out-of-state lab for processing, said Daniel Ruiz, chief operating officer for Gov. Doug Ducey’s office.

That’s a significant boost in speed at a time when many in Arizona are reporting waits of more than a week to get their results. Sonora Quest, which is processing most of Arizona’s tests, says its taking 11 days to report results.

The testing surge comes following pleas on national television by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who said she was initially told the federal government was ending its mass testing efforts in other cities and didn’t plan to set one up in Phoenix.

Arizona Gov. Ducey extends moratorium on evictions until October amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Governor Doug Ducey is holding a news conference at 3 p.m. on July 16 to provide a COVID-19 update as hospitalizations and ICU bed usage has reached all-time highs in the state.

Arizona on July 16 tallied thousands more confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The state Department of Health of Services said the 3,259 additional cases increased the statewide total to 134,613. However, the number of cases could be far higher because many people have not been tested, and some can be infected without feeling sick.

Arizona has reported record numbers of hospital beds, intensive care beds, and ventilators in use. Just over 3,500 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, about a quarter of them in intensive care. The state reported 58 additional deaths, bringing its death toll from COVID-19 to 2,492.

Despite initial concerns the virus would devastate the homeless community in Arizona’s Maricopa County, county officials say just 119 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and one died as of July 9. National experts on homelessness credit infection rates lower than those in the general population to early efforts like keeping shelters clean and ensuring people at them stayed socially distanced.

Arizona became a national coronavirus hot spot after Ducey in May relaxed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions. Ducey since has closed gyms and bars and limited restaurants’ capacity. Many local governments have imposed masking requirements.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

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CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ: azdhs.gov/coronavirus

On CoronavirusNOW.com, you'll find extensive coverage about COVID-19, including breaking news from around the country, exclusive interviews with health officials, and informative content from a variety of public health resources.

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Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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