COVID-19 Test

The Pima County Health Department and Paradigm Laboratories are offering free COVID-19 tests at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way. Testing is by appointment only.

As with pretty much everything coronavirus related, the guidance and availability of COVID-19 testing has evolved over the last several months.

COVID-19 tests once reserved for the most vulnerable in our community and first responders in the early months of the pandemic are now free and readily available for anyone at three Pima County testing locations that opened in July and early August.

The three sites have the capacity to perform a combined total of nearly 13,000 tests per week.

You don't even need a referral from doctor or have any symptoms, but you do need to make an appointment, which you can likely get same-day.

Here's what else to know about these testing sites. 

Who should get a test?

At the three free county COVID-19 testing centers, anyone who wants a test can get one without a doctor's orders regardless of whether they have symptoms. 

"When tests were in such short supply, we were limited in our testing option so we prioritized the very ill and healthcare workers for testing. Testing is now widely available in Pima County at many locations including the free testing locations supported by Pima County and the City of Tucson," Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said via email. "If you think it would be beneficial to get tested, you are not taking a test away from someone who really needs one. We encourage people to get tested who are symptomatic, may have been exposed regardless of symptoms, and those who wish to test for other reasons, such as reassurance."

The health department recommends testing for anyone who was within six feet of a person who had the virus for 15 minutes or more. 

"You should be tested between 4-7 days after potential exposure and self-quarantine immediately," says Caitlin Jensen a spokeswoman for the health department. 

If you are tested you should remain at home and self-quarantine until you receive your results. 

Where can you get a free test?

There are three locations that offer free testing in different areas of Tucson run by the county and other community partners. Each site has different hours of operations but between them all there is an opportunity to get a test every day of the week.

You can't just show up though, you do have to make an appointment online or by phone. 

"Appointments for free Pima County tests are required but plentiful" Jensen says adding that it possible to schedule a same-day appointment. 

Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Test type: Nasal swab

Make an appointment online or by phone at 800-369-3584.

Morris K. Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Test type: Nasal swab

Make an appointment online or by phone at 800-369-3584.

Ellie Towne Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road

Hours: Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, 7 a.m. to noon. The schedule for this location has only been confirmed through Sept. 6 as of the publication date of this story. 

Test type: Saliva

See the schedule and make an appointment online. If you are not able to make an appointment online you can go to the center and staff will help you set up your appointment.

What to expect when you are tested

All three testing locations are indoors but social distancing measures are in place to minimize exposure to others. 

When you arrive at your testing site you're advised to wait in your vehicle in the parking lot or outside the building distanced away from others until your appointment time. 

At the Kino and Udall centers

When you approach the entrance at these two sites you'll be asked by a staff member if you have an appointment and if you have any symptoms. If you are symptomatic, you'll be directed to a specific entrance. 

"There are physical distancing markers all along the floor. You'll proceed to a symptom check station where they will take your temperature and confirm your appointment," Jensen says. 

Then, you'll either wait in a gym set up with chairs spaced more than 6 feet apart for your turn to be tested, or you'll be directed to the front of one of several lines to present your photo ID and answer "some demographic questions that will help us better understand how COVID-19 is spreading in the community," Jensen says. This includes your contact information which will be shared with the county's contract tracers if your results are positive. 

A label for your test will be printed out and you'll be asked to confirm your information and handed a test kit in a plastic bag. 

"From there, take your test kit and follow the distanced floor markings to the 'Hot Zone', where testing is completed," Jensen says. 

In the "Hot Zone" a medical worker will explain the testing process and will swab both your nostrils and seal the test. 

Tests at these locations are conducted by Paradigm Labs. From start to finish the entire process should take about 10 minutes, but it could be longer depending on how many appointments are scheduled that day.

At the Ellie Towne Center

This is the only free testing site offering the saliva-based test, run through a partnership between Arizona State University, Pima County and Arizona Department of Health Services. 

For this test you should be well-hydrated, rinse your mouth with water and refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and chewing gum at least 30 minutes prior to your appointment. 

You'll be asked for your photo ID and the QR code from your appointment confirmation.

Symptomatic and asymptomatic people are split into different groups to prevent exposure.

"The participants are given a test tube and a straw and asked to use the straw to fill the tube with saliva to a certain line," says Kelle Maslyn the executive director of community and corporate engagement for ASU Tucson. "They hand the filled tube to one of the medical staff at the site and can leave."

What to bring

Pack your face mask and your photo ID for appointments at all three sites.

At the Ellie Towne Center you'll also be asked for your QR code from your appointment confirmation.

How long do you have to wait for your results?

For tests conducted at the Udall and Kino centers results are typically available within 48 hours.

Results from tests conducted at the Ellie Towne center are available within 24-48 hours. 

Still have questions?

Find the most up-to-date COVID-19 county testing center information here. Find a full list of other COVID-19 information and resources from the county here.

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