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Labs unable to test for COVID-19 due to lack of PPE, get help from state and National Guard

Posted at 6:14 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 02:14:10-04

PHOENIX — About three weeks ago, ABC15 shared with you our story of a local lab not being able to do drive-up COVID-19 testing due to the lack of personal protective equipment.

"The amount of appointments we were able to give out was based on the amount of PPE, not the amount of tests we have," said Chantelle Ketchem of PT Choice Labs.

Since the pandemic started, Chantelle Ketchem has been overseeing COVID-19 drive up testing sites across the Valley. They were averaging four to five per week, until suddenly they weren't able to keep up with the demand.

"We had to shut down to one site we had an incredible problem getting PPE," added Ketchem.

Our story on PT Choice Labs's needs ran on ABC15 in late June, catching the attention of state health officials.

"They are helping us fill this gap because we are almost out," added Ketchem.

The Arizona National Guard was called in to help make connections to help the lab meet the current demand.

"We were able to reach out to our partners and find masks, gloves, and gowns that would help to augment their supply for testing missions," said First Class Sgt. Brian Bowling.

The Arizona National Guard was able to help in this case with PPE, but they also carry out other missions.

"One thing that I've seen that's been helpful is not just the medical role in this, but just the overall capacity. We have added logistics, resources of staffing, and coordination in planning in helping the community, especially the smaller counties, towns, and tribal communities that don't have the resources like we do Phoenix, Tucson or Flagstaff," added Bowling. 

In the case of PT Choice Labs, Ketchem says they will now be able to get right back to where they were two months ago.

"This shipment is going to allow us to do two additional testing sites, and we will continue to do more as many as we have PPE for," added Ketchem.