A day in the life of COVID-19 testing from an unsung hero

Posted 8/12/20

Thanks to a partnership between the Equality Health Foundation and Sonora Quest, as well as community-based organizations and local municipalities, there has been a surge in free COVID-19 testing blitzes.

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A day in the life of COVID-19 testing from an unsung hero


Thanks to a partnership between the Equality Health Foundation and Sonora Quest, as well as community-based organizations and local municipalities, there has been a surge in free COVID-19 testing blitzes.

These blitzes --- in communities with a high number of positive cases and areas historically underserved and undertested, with limited access to health services --- are made possible by the work of the Equality Health Foundation that provides healthcare services to populations most in need.

In addition, Sonora Quest joins in its commitment to provide Arizonans with access to reliable detection tests, education and follow-up care, according to a press release.

From one test at a time to taking one day at a time, Desmond “Des” López, a 25-year-old Arizona native has maintained the call to serve the public. When she was 17,  the release said, she sought helping people, no matter the risk, and enlisted in the military, which shaped her character and development as an adult.

“My mom has always said that I’m the type of person who looks out for others before myself, without thinking about the risk,” said Ms. Des, a phlebotomist at Sonora Quest Laboratories, in a prepared statement.

As part of the Sonora Quest team, performing COVID-19 detection tests for active infection, Ms. Des has extremely high-risk and challenging work because the ratio of positive COVID-19 detection tests in Maricopa county is 1 in 4.

She and her team have handled samples that contain the “highly contagious and potentially lethal virus,” the release said, noting the health risk for healthcare workers in addition to their families and loved ones.

The Testing Blitz: A Life Experience

These massive events, usually held on Saturday mornings, have had an impact on Ms. López, who has experienced many emotions including gratitude since seeing the large amount of people who attend the blitz to receive COVID-19 testing for an active infection.

Those working the frontlines at these events are required to cover up from head-to-toe to protect themselves from exposure to the virus.

“Sometimes it has been overwhelming. It has been very, very hot. And the events have been on Saturdays, after having worked five days during the week, and all you see is endless lines of cars,” said Ms. López in a prepared statement.

“But at the end of the day, it’s a great feeling, knowing that we were able to test all the people who attended.

“But, I always think there is so much more that needs to be done. There are so many people who may be sick without knowing it. I want to do everything I can to help them.”

Ms. López highlighted the importance of discipline and self-care during these events, as any misstep made during her work can have severe consequences.

“It is very important to stay hyper-focused on what you’re doing. In order to do that, we need to constantly hydrate ourselves, eat, and take breaks as our work requires careful attention, said Ms. López.

“We have the excellent training. We just need to be sure to take care of ourselves so we can do what’s needed to stay safe in a high-risk atmosphere.”

Back at the Homefront

From getting home to hugging families and eating with them at the dining room table, for many, the end of the day is a time to relax and de-stress from work. However, that is not the case after arriving home from a testing event for frontline workers like Ms. López as going home after a testing event is often more stressful than preparing for the actual event.

When frontline workers get home after a testing event, they need to focus on preventing the spread of the virus to their families by first, disposing their work clothes immediately and placing them in the wash or in a designated place out of reach of other family members.

Then, take a bath or shower in order to eliminate any possible spread of COVID-19. After, and only after all these steps are followed, can there be contact with families and loved ones.

Ms. López stated about the importanced of friends and family to her. They help her maintain a positive mental attitude during this time of high stress and uncertainty.

“I have a 5-year-old godson, a little sister that’s 15 years old, and my mom. They know what I do, they know the process I have to follow before I greet them. Talking with my godson, coloring with my sister, and playing videogames with them helps me to disconnect from everything that happened during the day,” Ms. López said.

After spending quality family time, Ms. López has a short rest period, and her day starts at 5:30 a.m., the next morning. To add to her already full schedule and workload, she continues her studies and plans to become a lab technician in the future.

“I just take it one day at a time,” Ms. López said. And that’s how Des and the team at Sonora Quest combat the virus, one test at a time.