Three hundred COVID-19 test kits arrived in Yuma County on Wednesday for distribution over the weekend by Yuma County’s Public Health Services District, giving a needed boost to the testing capacity here.
Yuma County Spokesperson Kevin Tunell said that the kits will immediately go to Yuma Regional Medical Center and local healthcare providers — and officials note the tests will give them a better idea of who has COVID-19.
The test kits were made by students and researchers from the University of Arizona and were allocated to Yuma County thanks to some assistance from State Rep. Tim Dunn, Tunell said, noting that the county was grateful to those two partners for getting these tests to Yuma County.
Dunn said that he learned the U of A was making test kits and distributing them throughout Arizona. He reached out to the university to make sure that rural communities like Yuma received a share, and he was able to arrange for a delivery of 300 test kits.
“We get calls from our constituents, we look at social media, so we understand that people are very nervous and that they want to get tested,” Dunn said. “I think that the (Center for Disease Control) guidelines and especially the county health department and Diana Gomez have done a great job of trying to allocate what resources we have, but these test kits will be almost double the number of tests we’ve already taken.”
Dunn said that he expects the added tests kits will ease concerns about the spread of the virus by answering who is sick. People who may have the seasonal flu can now know for certain that they have that and not the coronavirus, he said, which should relieve YRMC and healthcare providers, while giving them a better idea of how many of their patients actually have COVID-19.
At the same time, Dunn said, it’s important for the public to remain calm and understand that the priority is to test the people already being cared for.
“Everybody can’t run down and get tested, but the doctors at (YRMC) and other healthcare providers are going to be able to test those people that they’re currently caring for and get some of these tests done,” he said.
Gomez, the director of the Yuma County Public Health Services District, said this is a huge boost to the health district and the Yuma County community, noting it should facilitate a lot of the work that the county is doing to know where the virus is in the community and how widespread it is.
“This is a huge thing for us,” Gomez said. “It increases our ability to test, increases our ability to gauge what the local spread looks like and we’re incredibly grateful. As a rural community, this is incredibly important for us, and we’re incredibly grateful to the U of A team.”
Tunell said that even with these additional test kits, county healthcare providers are still limited in the number of tests they can do and with that, they are limited in knowing how many people actually have the virus.
Coronavirus is actively circulating with an unknown source in Yuma. Tunell said that people should be familiar with the warning signs of COVID-19 and be aware of the differences with the regular flu and allergies, both of which people could experience at this time as well.
Because the COVID-19 tests are prioritized to people who are at a higher risk including people in the hospital’s care, healthcare providers and first responders, people at home need to rely on their own judgement to determine if they’re showing signs of coronavirus, he said.
“This is not a good time to relax the precautions people are taking,” Tunell said. “Continue to stay at home, continue to wear a mask, continue to wash your hands.”