June 3, 2020

FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. – Over the course of two days the Navajo Housing Authority conducted diagnostic testing for COVID-19 for all of its regular-time employees. The testing event was held on June 3 – 4, at the NHA Fort Defiance complex in Fort Defiance, Arizona from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM each day.


“We are excited to partner with Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation once again to provide a third round of COVID-19 testing, this time for all our NHA regular employees,” said NHA CEO Frank Dayish. “As a housing organization, it is important the NHA continues on its mission for the benefit of the Navajo Nation people and this mandatory testing is the next step in getting back to business.”


“Our first two testing events for COVID-19 largely utilized the nasal swab method, which required a registered nurse in full personal protection equipment to complete the test, however we are anticipating a better experience with the transition to the saliva method,” Dayish added.


David Thomas CEO of ASU’s Research Enterprise was on site to train the NHA medical assistants on the new method of sample collection. “We are very grateful to have the opportunity to help test the Navajo people,” said Thomas. “Our job in the COVID-19 testing is to provide site support where we help setup the test site and empower the organization, such as NHA, to provide testing for your customers, employees, and affiliates. We also manage the sample transportation to the ASU Biodesign Institute.”


“What the Biodesign Institute has done is they’ve come up with a saliva collection sample which is a more comfortable way of collecting a sample for COVID-19 testing then the nasal swab which can be more challenging at times,” Thomas said. “Studies from ASU and Yale University have indicated the salvia method is as good as the nasopharyngeal swab. Saliva sampling is also as appealing alternative to nasopharyngeal swab, since collecting saliva is non-invasive and easy to self-administer.”


The testing itself was a drive-thru system. Individuals were instructed to stay in their vehicle with windows rolled up until they reached the testing tent. The actual test procedure involved the participants filling a tube with saliva via a straw. The samples are collected by the NHA medical assistants and were sent back to ASU’s Biodesign Institute, an FDA approved, clinical testing lab that can run up to 1,200 PCR-based COVID-19 diagnostic tests per day.


The reporting of completed results usually takes between 24-48 hours, with a single NHA contact identified to help notify staff on results, as well as tribal public health departments.


The NHA management indicated they would like to continue regular testing of its employees on a bi-weekly bases.



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