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Pima County boosts COVID Testing

Prepares for COVID years from now
Posted at 7:32 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 21:32:14-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — With COVID’s fast spreading Omicron strain a growing concern, Pima County’s boosting test capacity; and the County’s preparing to cope with COVID as far as four years in the future.

Pima County says between at-home quick tests and slower but more accurate PCR screens, the County’s done about two and a half million tests since the pandemic began. When Supervisors considered a contract to buy about 57 thousand more of the at-home tests, Supervisor Steve Christy questioned why the contract has options to buy tests well into the future.

Christy asked: “Why is this a four year renewal?”

Chief Medical Officer Doctor Francisco Garcia said COVID is not going away anytime soon so Pima County needs to be sure it has a supply of the at-home tests, which offer quicker results than the PCR tests more common at testing sites.

Dr. Garcia said, "The kind of testing (PCR) that is broadly available, which has typically resulted in 24 to 48 hours, doesn't help get children back in school and doesn't help people get back into the workplace.”

Supervisor and Medical Doctor Matt Heinz says test sites are overwhelmed and some people are having such a hard time getting tests that they’re going to hospitals just to be tested, and adding to already overloaded emergency departments.

“And that is incredibly disruptive for the healthcare system because we're obviously there to take care of folks that are very seriously ill, so anything that the county can do to expand testing, especially PCR testing, which is better, I believe, would be to do that.”

One testing contractor says it’s prepared to do an additional thousand tests per day and the County is planning to open a drive-up test site at PCC-West Campus next week. It should be able to handle one and two thousand additional tests per day.