Pima County Steps up Tracing and Testing

COVID-19 contact tracing

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County is ramping up testing and tracing in the fight against COVID 19.

On Wednesday, a new saliva-based test started at the Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center. This comes on the same day the Pima County Health Department announced they are ramping up contact tracing.

The new testing has already proven favorable for some. Like Theresa Walker and her son, LJ who drove from Vail to have it done.

"All you gotta do is spit in a straw that goes into a container and they seal it up," said Walker

The test provides a different option to the nasal swab. An option that parents like Walker need.

“Especially for special needs kids, a lot of them feel uncomfortable with things like that; to me this was much funner for him and much easier.”

In order to keep tabs on any tests that come back positive, the Pima County Health Department is stepping up contact tracing.

“In order to respond to these increasing cases, and the contacts appropriately, we’ve got to increase our capacity so we can appropriately respond in a timely manner,” said Epidemiologist and Contact Tracing Program Manager Matt Christenberry.

Christenberry said they now have about 140 trained staff members to do case investigation and contact follow ups who you could be hearing from via phone.

“We’ll tell them the reason for the call. Which may be that they’ve tested positive or they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID 19,” said Christenberry.

The new contact tracing teams have completed training and will be starting calls this week. Calls will be coming from (833) 771-XXXX or (520) 724-XXXX. Caller ID will display as “Pima Health Dept.”

If you get a call from a number beginning with these numbers, please answer. You will only receive a call if you have tested positive for COVID-19 (a “case”) or are listed as contact of a case. You will be asked about your symptoms: if you have any, when they began, and where you have been since two days before they started. You will be reminded of isolation practices or what to look for if you do start to feel sick. You will be asked if you need help getting anything while in isolation (if applicable).

“If they’re not aware of an exposure they’re really don’t know what they should be doing or what’s the recommendations, right,” said Christenberry on the importance of picking up the phone.

The tracing and testing both take up little time, but they carry big importance. In order to keep community spread to a minimum.

“We all have a role to play to make sure we protect our family, our friends, and our community,’ said Christenberry. “We all have to do our part in this pandemic to slow the spread and get back to what would be a quote unquote normal life.”

The health department wants to remind you that when they call they will not be asking for financial information, health insurance or immigration status. If you do get asked those questions there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

Another testing site will possibly be open next week on August 8th at the Udall Center.

Rillito Racetrack is also being eyed as another potential drive through testing site as well.

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