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Coconino County testing positive at twice the rate as the rest of Arizona, data shows

If the Navajo Nation were a U.S. state, it would rank behind only New York and New Jersey for per-capita confirmed cases.

PHOENIX — According to the Arizona Department of Public Health, numbers of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus continues to rise. Currently, there are 5,251 confirmed positive cases in the state, with 208 coronavirus-related deaths. 

The Navajo Nation is facing one of the fiercest outbreaks in the country. If the Navajo Nation were a U.S. state, it would rank behind only New York and New Jersey for per-capita confirmed cases based on overall numbers. 

Coconino County is testing positive at twice the rate as the rest of Arizona and in Tuba City it's even higher. Statewide, data shows that about one in 10 people tested for COVID-19 ends up being a positive case. In Coconino County, that rate is more than doubled, where one in five tests are confirmed positive.

At Tuba City Regional Health Care, the spread is even worse. At least 35 percent of people tested were positive for the virus according to the most recent data available. 

The hospital has tested 586 people since March 12, with 210 positive cases and 327 negative cases, according to TCRHC's website. The hospital currently has 17 COVID-19 positive or suspected inpatients and 53 people have been stabilized and sent home. 

TCRHC is regularly using three testing mechanisms, Dr. Diana Hu said. She stated that some labs go to Sonora Quest reference lab with a turn around time of two days. They are also using the Molecular PCR from GeneXpert inside the hospital with a turn around time of 45 minutes. Testing kits are from Cepheid. Another machine they are using is the Abbott IDme rapid molecular test with a 15-minute turnaround. 

Dr. Hu says the hospital has a limited testing capacity since the initiation of the testing program and have had to modify as tests go online or offline based on supplies. She says they are not currently testing any asymptomatic people or household contacts in order to save tests for people needing clinical care. 

Testing supplies are limited and is a reflection of the state overall, Dr. Hu stated. 

"We do not have enough testing capacity to test all household contacts, etc. or do population-based testing," she said "Arizona never had the same testing and lab support as some of the other states/facilities. Therefore our denominator is limited by the tests we can do." 

Coconino county is also releasing data about who is impacted by the virus, stating at least 20 people in high-risk jobs, such as healthcare and child care, have so far tested positive for the virus.

"We think about 25% of the patients in Arizona are Native Americans from the Navajo Nation," Dr. Hu said. "We see new hospitalized patients every day. I think there has only been one day in the past four weeks where there has been no transfer of a critically ill patient or an overflow COVID-19 patients from Tuba to a tertiary care facility." 

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