Arizona's largest hospital system announced on Monday that it would begin drive-thru testing for the new coronavirus at four sites in the state.
Testing is available by appointment only, and Banner Health is not disclosing the exact locations of the sites.
In the Phoenix area, one is in the northwest Valley, one in the southeast Valley, and the third in Mesa, spokesperson Becky Armendariz told Phoenix New Times.
The fourth location is in Tucson, and Banner plans to open more "at a later date," according to a news release. It did not disclose the sites' testing capacity.
Banner published a hotline number, 844-549-1851, for people to call if they have want to get tested for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and to "determine if testing is appropriate."
When New Times called the hotline, an automated answering service said that the estimated wait time to speak with someone was "greater than 30 minutes."
If people don't call first and receive an appointment, they will be turned away and told to call the hotline, Banner's news release said.
Who qualifies for testing? The answer is the same merry-go-round it's been for weeks.
In order to get an appointment at one of the drive-thru sites, people have to meet CDC criteria for testing, Banner says.
But the latest CDC guidance leaves that to places like Banner, saying that "local and state public health staff will determine if the patient meets the criteria for testing for COVID-19."
Meanwhile, Armendariz, Banner's spokesperson, said that those criteria may change "based on test kit availability and as the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, so we are not providing specific criteria."
"Individuals must be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 in order to qualify for testing. In addition to symptoms, our clinical team member will ask additional questions that could indicate likelihood of having COVID-19," she said.
Banner's capacity for testing at drive-thru sites, including how many people can be tested per day and when or if that could change, remains unclear.
Drive-thru testing should take five to 20 minutes, according to Banner. At the sites, people should stay in their cars. Patients have to fill out paperwork agreeing to self-isolate after the test until they receive their results; testers then take a nose swab.
The tests will be sent to Sonora Quest Laboratories, a commercial lab that is a subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics; results will take three to five days.
Those sites are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. Friday. They are not open weekends.
Banner's drive-thru testing rolls out amid mounting criticism of Arizona's lack of testing for COVID-19. The state public health laboratory has to date tested just 352 people, producing 41 positive cases of COVID-19.
The total number of tests in Arizona conducted by private laboratories like Sonora Quest or LabCorp remains unclear, although out of the 234 cases of the new coronavirus in Arizona to date, 193 were tested at private labs.
The Mayo Clinic has set up testing, but only for its own patients. Dignity Health, another major hospital chain in Arizona, does not currently have plans to build drive-thru testing, a spokesperson said.
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