PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- "Overwhelmed." That's the word employees with Equality Health use to describe the massive turnout at last Saturday's free coronavirus drive-thru testing site in west Phoenix.

About 500 were expected and more than 1,100 showed up. By the time Tomas Leon got to work on Monday, they were already booked for this weekend. Leon is the senior vice president for marketing and strategy for the organization, which focuses on "improving the health of diverse populations."

"You know, we took it to heart," Leon said. "And it was very personal to us that people had to wait in line for so long." 

On Saturday, June 27th there will be another testing event, but it will come with some changes. Leon says that includes the following:

  • Double the number of registration lanes.
  • Two additional testing lanes.
  • A WiFi tower to help with technical problems and public bathrooms that will be cleaned after every use.

Leon says water and masks will also be provided on what is expected to be a hot day. This is a joint effort between the Equality Health Foundation, the city of Phoenix and Sonora Quest Laboratories. Leon says registration for tomorrow is full and they will have to turn people away who don't have an appointment, but they will give out additional resources and guide people to other testing locations.

Dr. Cara Christ, the head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, addressed the issue this week in a news conference with Gov. Doug Ducey. She says they've added 62 more testing sites across the state and are working with different organizations to ramp up testing in places like Maryvale. 

"We're assisting with getting them collection kits, the National Guard to assist with parking and traffic control, courier service to get those specimens to the lab and offering lab testing as well," Dr. Christ said. 

Leon says about 700 tests from last weekend have been processed and, so far, about 198 of them are positive. He says the Hispanic community continues to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. 

The testing site is located at the Desert West Sports Complex, at 6602 W. Encanto Boulevard. It's in the 85305 zip code, one of the hardest hit in the state. It's an underserved community, according to Leon, and many are working on the front lines during the public health crisis. 

"They are working in construction. They are working in grocery stores," Leon said. "Manufacturing, transportation -- a lot of them working in healthcare." 

While they may have been overwhelmed by the response, he wasn't surprised saying there is a need for testing in this area. He doesn't want communities like Maryvale to be forgotten about, and says we're in a "public health crisis." The organization is working with the state and other private groups to expand to other cities as well.

"We need a sense of urgency, focus and coordination to implement more of these community-based testing events in high-exposed, high-risk zip codes," Leon said. The testing also includes follow-up care, including for those who have underlying health conditions.

If you were not able to register for Saturday's event, Leon says they are planning more in the future. Here's a link to COVID-19 testing sites on the state health department website.


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