More testing urged in Arizona as new COVID-19 cases persist

As Arizona remains the worst state in the nation for the rate of new COVID-19 cases, a public health expert warned Wednesday that more people in the state need to get tested.

Only about 15,000 COVID-19 tests are being administered each day across the state, a figure that is low considering Arizona is "one of the hotspots in the country if not the world," said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, director of the Biodesign Institute research center at Arizona State University.

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

"If we’re raging with that many cases in the state, we should be testing 80,000, 100,000 tests a day to really identify cases and get people isolated," LaBaer said during a briefing with reporters. "I know some people don’t really want to find out they’re positive because it means they have to stay home for two weeks. That’s how we stop the spread."

The Department of Health Services reported 9,398 additional known cases and 244 additional deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 699,942 cases and 11,772 deaths.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, there were 4,580 hospitalized COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds as of Wednesday, down from the Jan. 11 record of 5,082.

From Jan. 13 to Wednesday, one person in Arizona out of every 147 residents was diagnosed with COVID-19. South Carolina was close behind at one of every 148.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases declined from 8,884.4 on Jan. 6 to 6,973.6 on Wednesday as the rolling average of daily deaths rose from 103.7 to 142.7 during the same period. That’s according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project.

The number of infections in Arizona is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

LaBaer thinks one reason for the drop in testing is reluctance on the part of people. At ASU, appointment slots for COVID-19 saliva testing typically filled when infections increased. But recently, LaBaer noticed there have been numerous open slots.

"I’m worried that people are just getting fatigued with it all and they just don’t want to know," he said. "Our recommendation is anybody that has a public-facing job of any kind ... those folks should get tested on a weekly basis."

MORE: Maricopa County COVID-19 vaccine status updates

LaBaer cautioned against taking that as a sign that Arizona is turning a corner.

"First of all, those numbers fluctuate day-to-day. I wouldn’t read too much into a little bit here and a little bit there," he said.

FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus

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