Testing blitzes

The $1.55-million grant that Santa Cruz County recently secured for COVID-19 testing is enough to pay for up to 8,400 tests, according to County Health Services Director Jeff Terrell.

That’s enough to test approximately 18 percent of the county’s population, and to more than double the 7,075 so-called PCR tests already administered to county residents through Thursday.

The county is ready to begin using its supply this weekend, as it launches a free testing blitz in Nogales on Saturday and Sunday. Similar two-day events are planned in Rico Rico and Patagonia the following week. 

The success of those events will determine what comes next.

“We’re going to take what we see here in these first three blitzes that we’re doing in Patagonia, Rio Rico and Nogales, and then we’re going to take it from there whether we set up some more blitzes, or we supplement the existing testing that is going on,” Terrell said on Thursday.

The county government announced on Monday that the State of Arizona had promised it $1.55 million from a larger $150-million grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help states combat the spread of COVID-19.

The upcoming grant-funded blitzes in Santa Cruz County are drive-through events, in which medical professionals will initiate the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for active infections by applying a nasal swab to people as they sit in their cars.

Terrell said Saturday’s and Sunday’s testing in Nogales will begin with people driving up to the County Complex via the Grand Avenue access point, “and they’re going to be cycled through an intake to fill out forms.”

How much paperwork will it involve?

“It’s not a great deal of paperwork,” he said. “We’ve got to have name, address, all that patient information so we can contact them once we have the results.”

Participants will also be asked if they’ve had symptoms and if they’ve been tested during the past 14 days, “but it’s not going to be an intensive medical history or anything like that,” Terrell said.

And because the testing is free, there’s no need to bring insurance documents – just a government-issued ID so the county can confirm the identity of the people they are testing. There won’t be any questions about citizenship or immigration status, Terrell said.

Once the intake is completed, participants will drive to a large tent in the west parking lot at the County Complex, where multiple lanes will be set up for drive-through test applications.

People who get tested will be required to isolate for 10 days or until they’ve received a negative test result. The county said it expects results to be returned from the lab “after approximately 24 hours.”

Current conditions

These were the latest COVID-19 numbers in Santa Cruz County as of Thursday morning, according to the County Health Services Department:

• 2,424 people had tested positive for an infection, up from 2,251 a week earlier.

• There were 44 deaths – an increase of 11 since Thursday, July 16. That was the largest seven-day jump in local COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

• Three-quarters of the local deaths (33 total) involved patients 65 or older. Another 10 were people between 45 and 64, and one was between 20 and 44.

• Hospitalizations of county residents increased by 10 during the June 16-23 period, from 118 to 128.

• There were 1,589 recoveries, an increase from 1,433 the previous week.

• 43 percent of the Santa Cruz County residents who had tested positive for the virus were in the 20-to-44 age range. Another 32 percent were between 45 and 64, and 13 percent were 19 or younger. The smallest share of confirmed cases – 11 percent – was among the especially vulnerable age group of 65 and up.

• According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were 1,365 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Nogales zip code (85621) and 1,015 in Rio Rico (85648). There were 11 cases in Tubac (85626) and between one and 10 cases in each of the three eastern county zip codes (Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin). The Amado zip code, which includes residents of Santa Cruz and Pima counties, had 29 cases.

• Also according to the ADHS, 28.1 percent of Santa Cruz County residents who took the PCR test for an active infection tested positive. That was down slightly from 28.5 percent a week earlier, but still the highest in the state.

• In Nogales, Sonora, there were 187 deaths and 1,855 confirmed cases as of Wednesday evening, according to the state health secretary. That was up from 174 deaths and 1,756 cases a week earlier.

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