Chaos, inconsistency mark launch of drive-thru virus testing

FILE - In this Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo, a healthcare worker prepares to collect a sample to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site at a community health center in Miami.

Positive coronavirus test results are starting to trickle back into Mohave County from outside testing facilities.

Mohave Public Health Director Denise Burley announced at a press conference Wednesday that a patient in the Bullhead City area had a confirmed case of coronavirus, following the announcement of the county’s first confirmed case, in Lake Havasu City, Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, La Paz County also had two people test positive for the virus on Wednesday. The La Paz County Health Department said in a news release that the people, whose identities were not provided, were not hospitalized and are recovering at home.

In Mohave County, both patients have been identified as adults and the county has reported that both are currently in isolation and do not require hospitalization at this time.

No demographic information such as the patients’ age or gender, or information regarding when they were tested was provided. Burley said the county takes direction from the patient and their provider about what information to release to the public.

“In all cases, it doesn’t matter which county you are in, we take direction from our providers and patients – what they authorize us to share,” Burley said. “We respect the privacy rights of those individuals, so they basically own their health data and can share what they wish. In this case, this is what they have chosen to share.”

In a statement on the Havasu COVID-19 Task Force Updates Facebook page Wednesday morning, the informal group of local healthcare providers who began collecting samples from Lake Havasu City residents last week said they will not reveal details about the positive test or patient in order to assure future patients that their anonymity will be protected.

Although the public will not be given further information about the identities of the two patients within the county, Burely said the county is working hard to identify anyone who had prolonged contact with the individuals.

“Public health is concerned about close contacts,” she said. “So for those individuals that have tested positive, or suspect cases that are pending results, those people have been asked to self-isolate for the time being and await their results. If they are positive cases moving forward we would reach out to the contacts of those individuals – those people who have been closely around them for a period of time.”

Burley said the county is asking those who have come into contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus to closely monitor their symptoms, self-isolate if need be, and to reach out to the public health department if they have any questions.

Burley said the county is working to track down contacts as quickly as possible and will do the same thing for each case, “to the degree that we can.” The process can be time-intensive for county employees, especially without any help currently from the Centers for Disease Control or the Arizona Department of Health Services, but Burley said the amount of legwork required to track down contacts varies greatly from patient to patient.

“It could be from just a few people to 50 or larger – it depends on that particular case and that particular patient,” she said.

The county is still looking into how both patients may have contracted the virus.

“At this point we don’t have any reason to believe it was contracted during any group events in Mohave County, but we are continuing to investigate these cases,” Burley said.

Although two positive cases have been reported in Mohave County, Burley estimated that there are still between 70 and 100 tests for which they are awaiting results. At Monday’s press conference Burley noted that when a community gets a case they tend to start seeing more positive tests in a short timeframe but on Wednesday she declined to guess how many positive cases we could see before weeks end.

“That’s very difficult to say at this point and I hesitate to speculate on any of that because we are awaiting these test results,” she said. “While we know we have a lot of outstanding and pending cases, we are unsure of the timeframe we will receive those results in.”

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