PHOENIX - One of the leading COVID-19 testing health care agencies in Arizona, Embry Health, announced it reached a milestone on Friday, Dec. 24 after testing its 1.6 millionth patient nationwide since the start of the pandemic.
In an effort to help test even more people, Embry Health announced it's expanding by 100 locations and will be hiring 500 new employees across the nation to support the need for more tests as COVID-19 numbers are spiking in Arizona and across the country.
The new testing sites are expected to open by the end of January 2022. The health care agency has locations in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Florida.
"At Embry Health, we are joined in a common purpose: helping people on their path to better health, through quality care. We are innovating healthcare through new initiatives that make quality care more accessible, easier to use, less expensive, and patient-focused. Working together and organizing around the individual, we are pioneering new approaches to total health that puts the patient first," a news release read.
In September, Embry Health reported a spike in the need for testing when the delta variant was the dominant variant. As of Dec. 27, omicron is named the dominate variant.
COVID-19 in Arizona during the holidays
The state coronavirus dashboard reported 7,641 new confirmed cases but no deaths on Dec. 27. This comes after a tally of only 344 cases and no deaths a day earlier.
Steve Elliott, state Department of Health Services spokesman, says no virus data was processed on Christmas Day. That’s why the number of cases on Sunday was so low. The daily case counts will likely be high for the next few days as the dashboard catches up.
Since the pandemic started, Arizona has seen 1,362,693 cases and 23,982 deaths.
As of Sunday, there were 2,327 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized statewide. Of those, 630 were in intensive care.
"People are adhering to health advisories, being tested, so we are seeing our numbers increase significantly," said Dr. Carmen Hill-Mekoba with Embry Health.
The lines to get tested are getting longer – once again.
Embry Health officials say their daily numbers for testing have almost doubled in the last week with one day reaching 17,000 people getting tested across Arizona.
"I do think some people are symptomatic, but there are a lot of asymptomatic people who just want to get tested," Hill-Mekoba said.
Embry Health says on top of people wanting to get tested after coming down with symptoms, many people want to check their status after their holiday gatherings and before upcoming ones like New Year's Day.
"We have all hands on deck, so we have backup support. Certainly, lines will be longer but not where you are waiting 30 minutes to get tested," Hill-Mekoba said.
For Embry Health testing locations, click here.
At-home tests are hard to come by
With the long lines and empty shelves where at-home tests used to sit, getting any kind of test can be hard to come by right now.
Heather Walker is the pharmacist at Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix and says the at-home tests are simply not available even though she has been looking.
"So I looked into quite a few wholesalers and it is hard, everyone is out of stock," she said.
She is not the only one dealing with this. Many other retailers are completely sold out as of Dec. 27.
President Joe Biden acknowledged the testing shortages happening all over the country, and he announced a plan to offer 500 million at-home tests to Americans sometime in the next month.
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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