The manager of a COVID-19 testing clinic in Ahwatukee is sounding the alarm about results he and his wife are seeing in recent test results.
“I kind of chart our seven-day moving average, and we’re up two and a half times what we were two weeks ago,” said Ron Willoughby, whose wife Nadia Willoughby owns Affordable Rapid Testing 12020 S. Warner Elliot Loop. “Our positivity is probably tenfold from two weeks ago.”
The Willoughbys had planned to open a med spa at that location on March 15 of last year – just as Arizona began shutting down to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“So it was never able to actually open,” Ron Willoughby. “We converted it into a COVID testing site.” He added the med spa is on indefinite hold, stating “We’re not going to do it while we’re doing testing.”
The clinic performs rapid antigen testing, which it notes on its website, affordablerapidtesting.com, is not as accurate as the standard tests used to accurately identify those infected.
But that offers no comfort for what Willoughby said he and his wife are seeing because it’s not the infected people that their test will miss.
“A significant percentage of those infected pass the test as a false negative,” the clinic warns. “In a few days, these people will spread the virus among others, thinking they are healthy.”
Willoughby said he was so concerned by the uptick in positive results he and his wife are seeing that he called both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools to urge them to have students tested.
Willoughby said the clinic had been performing an average of about 30 tests a day until recently, when that number more than doubled to an average 75 a day.
Asked if the number of positive results is the highest they’ve seen since they opened, he replied, “I can’t go as far as to say that, but what I will tell you for sure is we have people coming in that are really sick.”
The latest data released by the county health department last Thursday show that while all three Ahwatukee ZIP codes are considered to be at the “substantial” level for virus spread, only 85048 has a test positivity in that category.
All three ZIP codes are considered having
a “substantial” transmission level because virus cases per 100,000 people range between 69 in 85044 to 98 in 85045 to 75 in 85048.
New positive test results, however, are at the substantial level only in 85048, which has a positive rate of 9.4 percent, according to the county data. The other two ZIP codes are at minimal transmission levels for positivity with less than 5 percent.
There is a two-week lag in the data and the results posted last Thursday by the county covered the week of April 4.
Willoughby said a number of Affordable Rapid Testing’s clients who have come in were already sick and “they suspect that they have COVID.”
“They tell me that their own words – that they’re sicker than they’ve ever been in their entire life.:
With those clients who have positive test results, Willoughby said he and his wife advise them to call their doctor for help.
Willoughby said he has no idea whey he and his wife are seeing a spike in positive test results, but noted that stronger variants have been detected in Arizona.
The state health department recently announced the discovery of three cases of the P.1 variant that has plagued Brazil, on top of at least 35 cases caused by the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in England. The U.S. does not consistently screen for the new variants.
Both variants spread 50 to 70 percent more easily than the normal strain.
But Willoughby said his biggest fear it “that they wind up shutting the economy down again” – though no state official has even suggested there is any possibility of that happening.
Willoughby himself said he was struck by COVID-19 in January 2020 and “it was the sickest I’ve ever been…I was down for about five weeks.”
“I lost all of my lung capacity and I’m still trying to get it back.”