Arizona updates COVID-19 testing criteria to anyone who may have been exposed

Previously limited to high-risk individuals and specific symptoms
Arizona updates COVID-19 testing criteria to anyone who may have been exposed
Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-26 12:28:02-04

PHOENIX — Anyone who believes they were exposed to COVID-19 and may be infected will soon be eligible for testing in Arizona.

The news comes from a blog post by Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.

"Today, we issued updated standing orders, expanding the criteria for testing to anyone who thinks they have been exposed to and could be infected with COVID-19," the post reads. "Previously, this order was limited to high-risk individuals and those with specific symptoms."

Dr. Christ says the change comes as testing capacity at hospitals, private medical labs, universities and other health care facilities has increased.

The countdown has begun as state officials weigh their options when it comes to opening up the economy.

Loosing the criteria of a once very restricted process.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t breath, so that’s when it really woke me up to this virus is when that happen because if felt like I was breathing through a straw,” said Matt Newey.

Newey continues to recover from the coronavirus this week.

The 23 year old tested positive in mid March following a skiing trip in Colorado with four friends.

He returned home feeling odd and just happened to have a doctors appointment a few days later.

He had a fever by then, tested negative for the flu, that’s when his doctor tested him for coronavirus.

“Twenty four hours later I get this call from my doctor and he tells me I’ve tested positive for COVID-19,” said Newey who took immediate action to notify friends and family he'd been in contact with. “It goes to show how important testing and contact tracing are cause I was instantly able to start contact tracing all of my friends. I was really worried because I came home from Colorado and was hugging my parents and it turns out I was infected that whole time.”

It would take five days before all of the friends from the ski trip could get tested.

Many rejected because of lack of symptoms and the fact they didn’t fall in the vulnerable category.

“Eventually all of my four other friends all tested positive for the virus,” said Newey. Newey says fortunately his parents came back negative.

As the state of Arizona announces an expansion of testing to those without symptoms.

Newey says it’s critical as it forced him to immediately change his habits.

“If you don’t know you're infected and you're not practicing the necessary precautions, you could be easily spreading it,” said Newey.

“We have to be ready to start opening up and we need that testing in order to assess the risk,” said Dr Paul Keim.

Infectious Disease Expert and Co Director of TGen North Dr Paul Keim says increased testing will guide the state when lifting the lockdown.

If there are small clusters discovered, they can be mitigated quickly.

“In those particular cases we probably don’t want to be pulling off the lockdown, we want to keep those communities very carefully controlled,” said Keim.

Beginning immediately, anyone who thinks they have been exposed or could be infected with COVID-19 can get a test.

The new order comes as testing supplies at hospitals, private medical labs, universities and other health care facilities has increased.

Patients out there seeking out a test are advised to visit their primary care doctor who can refer them to the proper testing facility.

"[U]p until now, the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and test collection supplies, such as nasal swabs and viral transport media, has been a significant barrier to increased testing," Dr. Christ writes.

"The good news is that our partners have indicated they are now able to obtain the supplies needed to perform additional testing because the supply chain is opening up," she continued.

Dr. Christ says they're telling labs across the state to update their criteria for patient testing for the virus if they have enough testing supplies and PPE to do so.

Read Dr. Christ's full post here.