COVID-19 cases in Arizona appear to be falling for the first week in over a month, and new detection tactics are being assessed to determine spread without relying on individuals self-reporting positive at-home tests.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) COVID-19 data dashboard marked 13,501 new cases over the past week with 59 reported deaths related to the coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that 15 minute antigen tests for use at home may be under-detecting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron. According to the Hill, while the tests are likely to still work, the timing of when the test is taken may matter more to the sensitivity of the test than was the case with previous variants. From Esther Babady, chief of the clinical microbiology service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York:
As mutation occurs, it may somehow change the structure of different proteins, which may result in a decrease in detection by the antigen testing. It can also be that earlier in the infection by BA.4 and BA.5, you don’t produce enough of the SARS-CoV-2 protein.
With the diminishing usefulness of at-home tests, another method of detection has emerged. Wastewater sampling is increasingly used to influence public health decision-making. Inside Health Policy reports that in a webinar hosted by the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), newer methods for decision-making, including vaccination rates, genomic sequencing and wastewater surveillance could help scientists with planning in addition to gaining a greater understanding of how the SARS-CoV-2 virus works.
This week, ADHS announced that in-home vaccination will be made available to those who need it, through a collaborative program between the Maricopa Department of Public Health, the Pima County Health Department and the ADHS Office of Health Equity. The mobile vaccination effort has thus far provided 117,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at community centers, schools, churches and other congregate settings.