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COVID testing site at Pima College will close Friday due to strong winds

High winds expected on Friday will force Pima County officials to close the COVID-19 testing site at Pima Community College's West Campus for the day.

The drive-through testing site will be closed Friday after officials met with the National Weather Service and were told to expect gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour during the day. The county said that wind gusts could knock over tables, chairs, tents, barricades, cones, and other equipment.

County officials said they were worried that the winds could potentially contaminate testing specimens due to dust particles, and could spread viral particles during nasal swabbing at the site.

The testing vendor, eTrueNorth, will notify individuals and reschedule appointments.

Officials said they expected the site to re-open on Saturday, Jan. 29.

The site—at 2202 W. Anklam Rd.—began testing people during a "soft launch" last Saturday. On Monday, hundreds of people sought COVID-19 tests, and the site remained open until the late evening. The site usually runs Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tests are free and available to everyone, county officials said, however, they strongly recommend people pre-register for tests, though they said that people can register on the day of testing as long as appointments are available.

The drive-through site is part of a larger effort to expand COVID-19 testing throughout Pima County as cases have spiked nationwide fueled by the Omicron variant. In Pima County, indoor testing sites will remain open on Friday, including one at the Kino Event Center at 2805 E. Ajo Way. That site opened on Monday, and people can seek tests from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

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"The Omicron surge and federal messaging about the availability and utility of rapid antigen testing are again creating increased demand that is not easily accommodated by the existing local COVID-19 testing capacity," said Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher in a memo to the Board of Supervisors, published on Jan. 12. "For this reason, the community is again looking to Pima County to provide low-barrier, no cost testing." 

County officials said that expanding free testing "reflects the Health Department’s commitment to equity in its efforts to protect residents and visitors from COVID-19."

Since the pandemic began, Pima County Health Department and clinical partners have performed around 2.5 million tests.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, our focus has been keeping our students, employees and community healthy," said Pima Community College Chancellor Lee D. Lambert "We are proud that our ongoing partnership with the Pima County Health Department will bring trusted, high-quality COVID testing to our community."

Along with large established sites at PCC and Kino, the county has also added PCR and rapid antigen testing at several free testing centers in Tucson, as well as mobile testing events scheduled at locations throughout the county, including rural and hard-to-reach places such as Arivaca and Robles Ranch, county officials said.

Those who need a COVID-19 test can make an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing to find locations and hours of all the testing options.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Cars wait in line at the FEMA-managed COVID-19 test site at Pima Community College's West Campus.