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State Health Director Says Arizona Now Doing Its Own Testing For Coronavirus

By Bret Jaspers, Mark Brodie, Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 7:57am
Updated: Friday, March 6, 2020 - 1:44pm

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Cara Christ
Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
Cara Christ, the head of Arizona's Department of Health Services.

Gov. Doug Ducey and state health department director Dr. Cara Christ sought to reassure Arizonans the state is ready for the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

“We know the disease is spreading, and we can expect additional cases in Arizona,” Christ said at a press conference Monday at the state public health laboratory.

COVID-19 is a new kind of coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, i.e. very similar to the flu. Higher risk patients are elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions.

According to Christ, the CDC has expanded the scope of who should be tested for COVID-19, but a move like that is typical. She said when a new disease appears, the most severe cases come to light. Then, as knowledge of the disease increases, testing expands and numbers go up. 

“An increase in the number of cases does not necessarily mean the disease is more severe,” she said.

Arizona has had one confirmed case of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon. The person had traveled to the region in China where the outbreak started. Twenty-six people have been tested, and 24 of those have been ruled out for the disease. One case is pending.

The state recently got permission from the CDC to do its own testing of possible COVID-19 cases.

“Our state public health lab has the capacity to test up to 450 samples per day, and we do not anticipate any shortages in test kits for our state public health lab to test for this disease,” Christ said.

Testing 450 samples does not mean 450 people, and one person may submit multiple samples when they’re being tested for the virus.

Christ listed off many of the instructions from the CDC on how to protect yourself from infection, including avoiding close contact with infected people, staying home when you are sick, frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your face.

Christ also urged people to seek out reputable sources of information and to not spread inaccuracies about COVID-19. She pointed people to their county health department and the state’s website, azhealth.gov/covid19

Christ said they’ll update infection numbers daily at around 9 a.m.

For more on what Arizonans can do to keep from catching the coronavirus, The Show spoke to Dr. Bob England, interim director of the Pima County Department of Public Health. He held the same position with Maricopa County when the H1N1-virus broke out in 2009.

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