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Pima County Health ramping up rapid COVID testing

County trying to improve availability and equity
Pima County is distributing thousands of rapid COVID-19 test kits that people can take at home.
Posted at 10:29 PM, Oct 08, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pima County Health says it is increasing rapid COVID-19 testing availability while also trying to get those tests to the people that need them the most.

Program manager Spencer Graves says the County has already handed out a few hundred thousand rapid tests to about 50 community partners, like schools and health centers.

That includes about 30,000 rapid “self-test” kits for people to take at home. The goal is to distribute another 70,000 self-test kits in the next two months, according to Graves.

Both the take-home and in-provider rapid tests are free for the public and results are available in about 15 minutes.

However, the tests are intended for people who are symptomatic or who are deemed close contacts with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

In order to maintain supply, the County is not giving the tests to asymptomatic people seeking weekly testing in order to adhere to a workplace mandate.

As a way to improve testing equity, the county is sending 80 percent of the self-test kits to “low resource areas,” and areas with “high COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.”

“Those that have resources, have a solid base, they can find means to go find these tests elsewhere,” Graves said Friday. “It’s not gonna be as difficult for them as someone that needs reliance on public transportation or family and friends to get them to these sites.”

The county is also working with community partners like barbershops and churches in targeted areas as a way to get information about testing and COVID-19 vaccines out to the surrounding populations.

Graves says the county is also ramping up rapid testing because more local health department resources are being diverted to handling booster shots this fall.

In addition, Graves says the local COVID-19 case rate has plateaued in recent weeks while health experts were hoping for a larger drop. More rapid tests have the potential to further curtail community spread.

In a statement, the county adds that “mobile testing will be expanded to include engaging high-risk populations where people live, work, worship, and play.”

For more information, you can visit the Pima County Health Department’s website.