PHOENIX — For people who waited in their cars for hours to get a COVID-19 test, the news can't come soon enough. On Monday a Roche machine, which processes up to 3,800 COVID tests a day, arrived in Arizona. When it is up and running, it should quicken the time it takes for people to get their test results. Later this week the state may announce further steps it's taking to speed up testing by adding more capacity for labs like Sonora Quest.
The news comes a day after Congressman Greg Stanton wrote a letter to Governor Doug Ducey, asking why the state has not directed more money to scale up COVID testing and contact tracing. Stanton says the Governor, Maricopa County and even Phoenix are holding onto large chunks of federal CARES Act funds which could at least be used in part to cover the expense of testing and tracing.
"You know what, I'm really angry," Stanton said. "Congress has given almost 2 billion dollars to Arizona to fight this virus." A spokesman for the governor says Arizona is using CARES Act money on education, helping small cities and counties, elections and if necessary, providing funds to the Department of Economic Security to help pay unemployment benefits among other things. The state has spent nearly $200 million in state and federal funds to pay for testing and contact tracing as well as purchase PPE's and provide hospital staff and the use of St. Luke's Hospital.
While quickening the time patients get their tests back will be an improvement, the challenge Arizona still faces is finding enough testing kits. Over the holiday weekend, a three-day testing blitz in Scottsdale was cut by a day when demand far exceeded supply. Money isn't the problem, finding enough testing re-agent is. With no national strategy, Arizona is left to compete with every other state for its share.