As Arizona surpassed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases today, Rep. Greg Stanton urged State leaders to take three immediate actions to contain the disease: use federal CARES Act funds to expand lab capacity for additional testing and to speed up test results; develop and implement a written statewide contact tracing plan; and mandate face coverings statewide.
“Our state is in crisis. Bold leadership—and urgent action—is necessary to keep Arizonans safe,” Stanton said in a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey. “These three steps are not exhaustive but can easily be accomplished and are essential to put our state on the right path.”
The Arizona Republic has documented the frustration many Arizonans have experienced searching for testing sites with available appointments and supplies. Appointments are fully booked within minutes each morning, and at drive-up testing blitzes, individuals have waited as long as 13 hours. Those able to get tested are often forced to wait a week or more to receive results.
Arizona received $1.86 billion in federal CARES Act dollars. A total of $395 million was withheld to backfill the state general fund, according to The Republic.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Arizona ranks 38th among all states for the number of tests performed with results per 1,000 people. Demand for testing has grown rapidly as cases surge across the state, and community partners are struggling to keep up. The New York Times described an “overwhelmed” system in which Arizona’s largest medical laboratory receives twice as many samples as it can test daily while appointments are booked within minutes of opening.
County public health officials underscored the need for accurate and timely data from test labs during a meeting with Stanton’s office. They reported that results could take 10 days or more to reach the Maricopa County Public Health Department, and up to 15 percent of those results may come without any personal identifying data. This information is critical to an accurate and effective contact tracing effort at the state and local level.
Three weeks ago, Stanton urged the State to take five steps to save lives and protect the economy. His plan made the case for increasing testing and accelerating result turn-around, prioritizing contact tracing, and a statewide mandate to use face coverings in public. He doubled down on these recommendations in his letter today.
Stanton also recently urged the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors evaluate its contact tracing efforts, which he said are “nowhere near meeting CDC guidelines.” Stanton said the “situation is a disaster” and is “costing lives.”
Stanton’s letter is available here.