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Comparing coronavirus tests, access for Arizonans

Posted at 7:46 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 23:07:18-04

Anyone in Arizona who believes they've been exposed to coronavirus qualifies for a diagnostic test after a recent change to state rules. Still, there's no guarantee they can actually obtain a test.

Wendi Loose and her husband, parents of an ABC15 staffer, tried Walgreens. They filled out an online questionnaire to schedule the test.

“We took the test [questionnaire] two different occasions, and I thought maybe I entered one of my answers incorrectly. Loose said, “It determined for both of us that we were both ineligible.”

Bill Mitchell, of Gilbert, tried Banner Health twice after he lost his sense of smell, which can be a COVID-19 symptom.

“It was one day, ‘No, you can’t do it.’ The next day, ‘Yeah, that’s fine’” Mitchell said. “Don’t give up.”

Maricopa County health officials tell ABC15, ultimately, it's up to the testing location who will be swabbed.

“Some healthcare providers have access to adequate personal protective equipment and testing supplies and a laboratory, and some that do not.” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “The issue for us is that it’s not widely available and consistently available.”

There are two types of coronavirus tests available now in Arizona.

The diagnostic test is a nasal swab, and it looks for the virus itself. A positive result means you are contagious, recently sick, or asymptomatic.

There are some limitations, according to Sunenshine. It won't detect COVID-19 during the first couple of days after exposure, and there can be false negatives.

The second kind of test is an antibody (serology) test. Arizonans must obtain a doctor’s order to get this blood test. The test will find antibodies that indicate a past coronavirus infection.

Health officials don't fully know about the antibody test's reliability or your future immunity, but they say the results are still helpful.

“Understanding this information helps us make decisions about the strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 because it tells us how many people in the community likely have some protection against the virus,” Dr. Sunenshine said.

Arizona’s coronavirus testing blitz occurs during the first three weekends in May.