THIS POST IS PART OF A SERIES ON THE NEED TO REBUILD ARIZONA’S PUBLIC HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE.
UPDATE 5.14: Dr. Christ has announced that the state will begin to test all residents/staff of Medicare/Medicaid eligible nursing homes. Better late than never, except for those already dead.
Governor Ducey’s Administration has announced that Arizona’s private labs foresee a a greater availability of testing such that Coronavirus tests may now be had “on demand”, even if you are not displaying symptoms.
If we really do have additional capacity, let’s choose to use it more wisely, given the dire need of so many.
It is simply poor policy and resource management to use our testing capacity on people who are able to physically distance effectively, without even having symptoms, or a doctor’s order. Leave such whole population-level testing to well-designed studies using antibody testing to learn the prevalence of asymptomatic community spread.
There are serious constraints on the supply of tests, and the Governor must prioritize that supply of testing facilities and materials on those who are most vulnerable to the virus. The Governor should focus our resources on pro-actively testing everyone living and working in congregate living facilities, including Long Term Care facilities (nursing homes, retirement communities, and other facilities caring for the elderly and medically fragile), jails and prisons (especially prison medical facilities), and homeless shelters.
We know for a fact that the virus is spreading in LTC facilities (they are already asking for liability limitations), prisons, and homeless shelters. We know that many people are currently sick, and some have already died, including staff. LTC facilities and prisons make up a substantial percentage of the community spread, and a disproportionately large percentage of mortality. But we have no idea the extent of the epidemic among those populations here in Arizona, and can take no informed action to stem the spread without that data. That data must be made public in as close to real time as possible, as Representative Powers Hanley has written here previously, and the AARP is demanding.
Ducey should also redeploy medical personnel from every available source, including the Guard, to help direct and implement testing and infection control measures in those facilities. We need that testing, those experts, and that data, NOW, so we can prevent the most deaths among the most vulnerable populations with the resources we have.
We need pro-active leadership for this state in this crisis and only Governor Ducey is in a position to provide it. Step up, Governor. Save lives.