What Arizonans need to know about COVID-19 testing heading into the new year

By Stephanie Innes | Arizona Republic

With mask use down, holiday gatherings up and the threat of another COVID-19 spike looming, rigorous COVID-19 testing will be one key to averting another surge of illness in Arizona.

Besides vaccination, wearing masks indoors and avoiding large gatherings, Health experts say it’s critical for Arizonans to get COVID-19 tests as soon as they show symptoms of illness and to isolate if they test positive.

Finding testing that’s convenient and available can pose challenges, even though the state lists more than 450 locations where tests are available. And processing often takes 24 hours or more.

“Testing is incredibly important to help reduce transmission in the community, particularly since mask use has decreased significantly in Arizona and because upwards of 40% of cases can be asymptomatic,” said Dr. Christina Bergin, an internal medicine hospitalist in Phoenix and co-founder of the group Right 2 Safe Schools AZ.

“If people are unable to get tested, either when they have symptoms or after a close contact, and if results aren’t returned in a timely manner, then we will continue to see uncontrolled spread.”

Public health experts emphasize that simply getting a test is not enough. If the result is positive, the next step is isolating to prevent others from getting infected. 

Omicron is not the dominant variant in Arizona right now, but it has been detected here and is expected to follow a similar pattern of spread that is causing case numbers to soar in other parts of the U.S.

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