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A cyberattack disabled the website of one of Arizona’s leading COVID-19 testing agencies this week as cases surged and more and more people sought tests.

Embry Women’s Health, which operates more than 30 COVID-19 test sites across the state, was hit with a distributed denial of service attack that caused the main website to go down multiple times.

But CEO Raymond Embry said Friday the attack “has not impacted the ability for patients to receive their results” or delayed the facility’s three- to five-day turnaround time.

“Someone’s intentionally targeting it, trying to knock it offline,” Embry said.

The health facility’s main website was offline throughout the day, but Embry said he expected it to be back up and running sometime Friday night.

Embry said the main website isn’t the only way patients can get test results. They can also access results via text and email and through the organization’s COVID-19 website, TestNOW.

Once it’s live again, patients will be able to access results through the main website, which directs them to a patient portal, Embry said. 

Initially, Embry said he believed the website outage was due to a high volume of patient traffic. But they later determined the website was being targeted and intentionally brought down. 

On Friday, Arizona reported nearly 4,500 new cases of COVID-19, the third highest daily report since the pandemic started. It’s also the second day in a row cases surpassed 4,000. 

The number of COVID-19 tests Embry’s sites have conducted increased by 71% over the past week. Embry Women’s Health was running 7,000 tests per day, but the number jumped to 12,000 this week, Embry said. 

“The fact that our primary website, where people would go to learn about the test sites and schedule, has been down all day, and our patient volume is still increasing, it’s actually kind of alarming,” Embry said. “It’s really showing that demand is not slowing down anytime soon.” 

Embry said testing among all of the company’s sites has gradually increased by about 1,000 tests each day over the last month. 

“At some point, it reached this threshold where it just, it sort of has been now exponentially increasing,” Embry said. “Now, each day, as more people find out that they’re positive, that many more people feel the need to go get tested.” 

Wait times to receive a test have increased from none to 30 minutes to an hour, Embry said. 

The two testing sites that have seen the largest increases are at Phoenix College and Glendale Community College North, Embry said. 

Both locations have gone from seeing 100 patients per day to about 500 or 600 per day, “so that’s been really challenging on the staff,” he said. 

As more people seek out COVID-19 tests, Embry said his organization has hired hundreds of new employees. The company had 250 employees in October and now has 650, he said. 

Embry said the organization has a goal of opening 60 test sites by the start of December. 

“To be able to do that, we now believe we’ll have to get up to 1,000 employees,” he said. “Now that our existing test sites are triple or quadruple the number of patients daily than they were before, you know, you have to double or triple the number of employees there.” 

Embry said they are currently conducting immediate hiring for both medical and non-medical positions. 

COVID-19 cases are “probably going to get worse,” he said.

“You’re going to have large families getting together, or even small families getting together and kids coming home from school who probably won’t be going back to school, and you’re going to see more family units getting exposed and infected,” he said. 

In order to receive a “zero-cost” test at any of Embry Women’s Health drive-through test sites, Embry said people should preregister online at TestNOW. But they will not be turned away if they do not register beforehand. 

The nasal-swab test, which is a swab that collects sample on the inside tip of the nose, will either be billed to the person’s health insurance company or it will be paid for by federal funds, Embry said. 

Patients can also get in touch with Embry Women’s Health office through call or text at 480-376-2170.

In addition to COVID-19 testing, all 24-hour test sites also offer flu vaccinations, according to Embry. 

Other COVID-19 testing sites in Arizona can be found on the Arizona Department of Health Services website. 

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or on Twitter @Audreyj101.

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