State data shows that Santa Cruz County now has Arizona’s second-highest positive rate on tests to detect COVID-19 infections.

According to statistics updated Monday by the Arizona Department of Health Services, 16.6 percent of people from Santa Cruz County who have taken the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 have tested positive.

Among the state’s 15 counties, only Navajo County had a higher rate at 18.5 percent. The statewide positive test rate was 6.7 percent.

Last Thursday, Santa Cruz County had state’s fourth-highest positive test rate at 14 percent, better than only Navajo, Apache and Coconino counties. But a flurry of new confirmed infections since then – more than 60 in the past four days – has driven up the local positive percentage.

Monday’s numbers from the state, compared with recent U.S. Census population estimates, also showed that Santa Cruz County had the fourth-lowest rate of COVID-19 infection testing in Arizona – 173.3 tests per 10,000 inhabitants. Arizona’s overall rate was 261.8 tests per 10,000 residents.

Only Graham (113.6), Mohave (159.1) and Greenlee (170.6) had lower rates of testing.

Apache, Navajo and Coconino, the counties with similarly high positive test rates to Santa Cruz, had overall testing rates of 547.7, 468.2 and 344.4, respectively – the three highest Arizona.

Santa Cruz County’s combination of a low rate of testing and a high rate of people who test positive may have a lot to do with who is getting tested.

Dr. Eladio Pereira of the Mariposa Community Health Center told the NI last week that his clinic had been having trouble acquiring a significant supply of tests, and has therefore been giving them primarily to symptomatic patients.

“I can tell you that in other locations, for various reasons, they test patients without symptoms. And I think the positivity rate could be related to that fact, that we test individuals with symptoms only,” he said.

Administrators at Holy Cross Hospital have declined to discuss factors at the hospital that may be affecting the county’s testing rate, saying only in a statement that: “We follow CDC guidelines for identification and treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus.”

Monday’s numbers did show Santa Cruz County’s testing rate improving slightly in relation to other Arizona counties. While it was fourth-worst in the state in testing on Monday, it was second-worst, behind only Graham County, last Thursday. It had the state’s lowest testing rate at times prior to that.

A spokeswoman for the Tempe-based clinical laboratory Sonora Quest told the NI last week that the company would “welcome the opportunity to work with county officials or local healthcare providers” on a testing blitz event. Such events have been held in other parts of the state throughout the month of May to helped boost the number of people being tested.

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