COVID-19 in Arizona: State to provide antibody tests to first responders, add drive-thrus for public

PHOENIX – Arizona soon will have access to two drive-thru testing centers and the capability to test first responders and health care workers for COVID-19 antibodies, Gov. Doug Ducey said at a press conference Tuesday.

The state so far has conducted more than 45,000 tests for the disease, according to the latest numbers released Wednesday, but Ducey said many more are needed in Arizona, which has 7.3 million residents.

“There is not a governor in the country who doesn’t need more testing,” he said.

Arizona is one of 14 states partnering with Walgreens to open two drive-thru testing options for the public. The drugstore chain announced the plan in a press release last week.

The locations of the testing sites have yet to be announced, Ducey said, and will be posted on when decided.

The governor also announced that the state is partnering with the University of Arizona to create and distribute 250,000 antibody tests to health care workers and first responders. The test checks for antibodies in blood to determine whether someone had COVID-19 and recovered. Health officials say this is important because many who carry COVID-19 are asymptomatic and can unknowingly spread the disease.

The governor made it a point to say antibody testing is not a cure for the disease but a way to understand the novel coronavirus that causes it.

“Learning more about it is an important step to identifying community exposure, helping us make decisions about how we protect our citizens and getting us to the other side of this pandemic more quickly,” he said.

As of Wednesday, April 15, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,962 cases of COVID-19 and 142 deaths in the state. It said 45,310 tests for COVID-19 have been completed as of April 15 in public and private labs in Arizona, and results were negative in 41,704 cases.

Nursing homes see spike in cases

Cases of COVID-19 have increased substantially in long-term care facilities in Maricopa and Pima counties, the Arizona Republic reports. Over the weekend, the number of these cases in Maricopa County jumped to 185, with 26 deaths. That accounts for nearly half the coronavirus-related deaths countywide.

Additionally, the number of staff at these facilities who have tested positive for the virus has risen to 102. Advocates for senior Americans have raised concerns that information regarding which care facilities have been hardest hit has not been released by the Ducey administration. A spokesperson for the governor said Tuesday they are in the process of collecting the information and intend to release it.

Ducey open to hosting a post-virus MLB season in Arizona

At his news conference Tuesday, Ducey said he is considering allowing Major League baseball to move ahead with its idea to conduct a modified season in Phoenix. The MLB has not decided how to move forward with its season if the pandemic lets up in time. One possibility would be to quarantine the 30 teams in metro Phoenix for the duration of the season, the Arizona Republic reports.

The games would be played in empty facilities across the Phoenix area. Health experts are concerned about the plan, and, although Ducey remains mindful of the risks, he expressed hope: “We have the facilities that are here. We have the hotel space that is here. We want to make sure that the metrics and data are proper before we are able to go forward.”

Coronavirus relief payments start landing in Arizonans bank accounts

Arizonans can expect to see payments from the federal coronavirus stimulus package this week. According to economists Cronkite News spoke to, the state will see a large influx of federal aid, with an estimated 80% Arizonans set to receive payments.

Most residents will get payouts of $1,200, and an extra $500 per child claimed as a dependent.

Arizonans filing for unemployment benefits face difficulties

Over the past week 92,000 more Arizonans filed for unemployment, creating additional strain on the unemployment benefits system. Those applying for aid are required to send back signed documents within one to two days, which has led to a resurgence in use of fax machines, which were popular in the 1980s. FOX 10 reached out to the Department of Economic security inquiring about the short time frames for supplying documents but has yet to hear back.

West Valley group on pace to sew and donate 10,000 masks

Volunteers from Helping Others Together Community Foundation, a West Valley nonprofit, initially planned to make 500 masks for facilities and organizations in need, but that number grew quickly as donations and support from volunteers increased, Daily Independent reported.

Beth McGee, president of the foundation, said volunteers set aside the masks kits for sewers to pick up and assemble. When finished sewing, they bring the masks back to McGee’s front porch where they are then prepared for pickup.

How to help

Social distancing has become a standard practice since the outbreak of COVID-19. Cronkite News explains why staying at least 6 feet from others can save lives.

Video by Jordan Elder/Cronkite News
Sports Reporter, Phoenix
News Photographer, Phoenix

Michael Hannan is a photojournalist from Phoenix who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.