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Providers told to discourage COVID-19 testing for 'most patients' in Arizona

Coronavirus testing
Posted at 4:39 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-29 14:24:31-04

PHOENIX — Arizona's top public health director is discouraging providers from testing most patients for COVID-19.

In a letter to primary care providers issued this week, Dr. Cara Christ wrote, "discourage testing for COVID-19 for most patients."

It went on to say this is an important change, "the current reality in Arizona and the rest of the country is that there are not enough available supplies to meet testing demand."

It also addresses conserving personal protective equipment. "We need to move towards reuse, extended use and alternative sources of PPE."

Earlier this week, State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) also sent guidance to health care providers about PPE shortage. They estimate the spread of coronavirus will last at least 12 months, and over that period, Arizona healthcare workers will need 74,000,000 N95 respirator masks.

The committee said there is a nationwide shortage of those masks and other PPE, and it's unclear how soon Arizona will be resupplied. The committee told providers to start contingency procedures for conservation of N95 respirator masks, surgical face masks, isolation gowns, and eye protection. They were told to prepare for crisis conditions, where not all medical workers would have proper PPE, and they could risk increasing the spread inside healthcare facilities.

So who should get tested?

This is also changing as well, according to new guidance released this week by the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee that says testing should be prioritized.

The guidance states, "public health and healthcare professionals should prioritize testing among three specific groups until sufficient and consistent PPE, testing supplies and capacity are widely available."

Those include:

○ Members of the healthcare workforce, first responders or critical infrastructure personnel*

○ Individuals living in congregate settings like skilled nursing facilities, prisons, and residential facilities with older adults

○ Individuals hospitalized with respiratory symptoms