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Testing ramps up across the Valley, new saliva test for COVID-19 is rolled out in west Phoenix

Posted at 9:02 PM, Jul 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-12 01:30:19-04

From the East Valley at Mesa Community College to central Phoenix at the now-closed Metro Center Mall parking lot, and at the Ak-Chin Pavillion in West Phoenix, testing efforts for COVID-19 were the place to be for thousands of Valley residents who want to find out if they are infected with the novel coronavirus.

"We are trending upward, we're number one, this is not the number one we want," said Nurse Practitioner LaWanda Mann of the Family TreeHealth Clinic in South Phoenix. She was tapped by the City of Phoenix to put together Metro Center's testing blitz this weekend.

"We are going to be here until we need to be here, until there is no more demand," added Mann about her partnership with the City of Phoenix to provide free testing for anyone who wants to be tested regardless of whether the person is showing COVID-19 symptoms or not.

One out of every four COVID-19 tests in Arizona is coming back positive at this time. Labs are backlogged with thousands of nose swabs. "So people have to be patient, we know Sonora Quest is ramping up their efforts to speed up the tests that we are continuously turning to them," added Mann.

Meantime, at the Ak-Chin Pavilion at 83rd Avenue and Encanto Boulevard, the same scenario played out this morning, except the test administered at this location is new and was rolled out this morning.

"It's obviously much more convenient than a nasal swam, more comfortable, more accurate, and quite fast and therefore, very efficient way of testing large numbers of people," said David Thomas of ASU's Biodesign Institute.

The test at this facility was a saliva-based test where participants spit their saliva into a straw and the straw is placed into a collection vial. Thomas added that the scientists behind the saliva test have been working on this for months and the timing couldn't be better given Arizona's hot spot status for COVID-19. Thomas says the saliva-based test will provide those tested today their results in 48-72 hours.

Both locations were by appointment only, each with the capacity to test 1,000 people.

In Mesa, the Embry Women's Healthcare has been tasked to provide the community with testing, doing appointments 24/7.

On Thursday, Governor Ducey announced "Project Catapult" will bring 35,000 tests per day by the end of July and 60,000 per day by the end of August.