Ducey and Christ

Gov. Doug Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ at a news conference Monday, March 2, talked about Arizona’s efforts against the coronavirus COVID-19.

Arizona has two confirmed cases and three presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, according to state health officials. Presumptive positive means tests in Arizona determined the person has the respiratory virus, but the diagnosis has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arizona’s first confirmed case was diagnosed in January, shortly after a man in the Arizona State University community returned from Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected in late December. University officials say that man has recovered and been released from isolation.

As of March 4, 34 people have been tested for COVID-19 so far in Arizona. Of those, 27 were negative and results are pending on five others.

funding

The Arizona Department of Health Services announced March 4 the state would receive $500,000 in initial funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support the COVID-19 response.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving rapidly and this additional funding from the federal government will help public health agencies in Arizona to better respond to the outbreak,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director. “We are still in the process of evaluating the best use of this initial funding and will work with our local health partners to determine how the funds will have the most effective impact in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

Congress has approved $8.3 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus, passing the measure with an overwhelming 415-2 vote — with an Arizona lawmaker counting for one of the two “nays,” according to a Cronkite News report by Joshua Gerard Gargiulo.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said after the vote that the original $2.5 billion request from the Trump administration was sufficient to fight the outbreak, and that throwing money at the problem with a “larded-up bill” would not help.

“In true Washington, D.C., fashion, congressional appropriators turned the president’s reasonable $2.5 billion request into a bloated $8.3 billion package,” Biggs said in a statement released by his office. “Throwing money at a potentially serious issue does not alleviate the American people’s concerns. Nor does politicizing the issue to score points for future elections.”

The Gargiulo Cronkite News report adds the emergency funding calls for $3 billion for vaccine development and research as well as $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for each of the next three years.

The bill also allocates $950 million in funding to support state and local health agencies in their fight against COVID-19 and $40 million in funding specifically for tribal communities, among other items. There is also funding for Small Business Administration loans to help businesses recover from any economic impact they suffer as a result of the disease outbreak.

In spite of the small number of possible Arizona cases of COVID-19, the threat looms large enough for state officials to go on the record about preparation for an outbreak.

arizona

Gov. Doug Ducey and Christ spoke at a news conference on the disease March 2.

“We are taking precautions to protect public health,” Ducey said. He added that Arizona public health officials have extensive experiences handling outbreaks of contagious diseases, such as the H1N1 flu, Ebola and measles.

Arizona officials can now check up to 450 samples daily and that could reveal more diagnoses, according to Christ. But that is to be expected, she cautioned, and doesn’t necessarily mean coronavirus is worsening.

The elderly and people with medical conditions are most at risk from the respiratory disease, with symptoms that mimic influenza and are spread person-to-person.

However, a man in his 20s has the second suspected case in Arizona.

The individual is a known contact of a presumed positive case outside of Arizona who had traveled to an area with community spread of COVID-19. The ADHS State Public Health Lab began testing for COVID-19 on March 2 and was able to detect this positive case on its first day of testing, according to a March 3 release from ADHS.

“We’re fortunate to have a state-of-the-art public health laboratory in Arizona that will help us identify additional cases of COVID-19 quickly,” said Christ. “Our lab has routinely been on the forefront of testing for emerging infectious diseases including Ebola, Zika, and now COVID-19. I’m grateful to our dedicated laboratory staff who support Arizona public health daily by providing testing services to inform public health decision making.”

After the presumptive positive determination, health officials interviewed close contacts of the case and it was recommended that they monitor for symptoms and quarantine themselves for 14 days based on the risk of exposure.

“As far as risk to the public, we are still doing the case investigation of this individual, however, because we know when and where this individual was exposed, this does not represent community spread,” a health official said.

COVID-19 is believed to spread mostly through respiratory droplets produced when a sick person coughs or sneezes. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

prevention

The best way to prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases is to:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

stockpiling

At their March 2 news conference Ducey and Christ both said they were not stockpiling food and water. Christ also advised against buying masks.

“Nielsen Investigations reported that sales of aerosol disinfectants were up 19% in the week that ended Feb. 22,” reported Howard Fischer with Capitol Media Services. “There also was a 3% boost in air cleaners and purifiers. And CNBC reported that grocery stores, including Costco outlets, have seen a spike in sales of things like hand sanitizer, facemasks and cases of bottled water.

“Christ said, ‘We would encourage the public not to do a run on hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes,’ according to Fischer’s report.

While discouraging stockpiling, Christ urged people to take safety precautions by washing hands for at least 20 seconds, coughing into tissues and staying home from work or school if sick

“This advice might seem obvious, but Gila County Public Health would like to remind everyone hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs,” said Michael O’Driscoll, director of Gila County Public Health. “Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community — from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.”

Banner payson

Lance Porter, chief executive officer for Banner Payson Medical Center said, “Banner continues to closely monitor the situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. The safety of our employees and our patients is of primary importance to us.

“Practicing good infection prevention principles best controls outbreaks such as COVID-19 and influenza. We safely care for patients with respiratory viruses every day. Our routine processes of putting masks on patients who have fever and respiratory illness, asking about travel history, and following policies on caring for patients with these types of infections not only help us provide safe patient care but also a safe work environment.”

Banner’s preparedness and response activities to date include:

• Creating a team to ensure consistent approach to preparedness across our Banner entities.

• Having hospital infection prevention leaders review local response plans related to infectious diseases with their local leaders. Our goal is to ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities in the event we see an influx of patients.

• Carefully monitoring supply inventories for all essential supplies including personal protective equipment and medications and working with our vendors and public health agencies.

“The biggest worry about this outbreak is that people get confused information, panic and flood the Emergency Room unnecessarily. This will impact our ability to treat those that really need it and could lead to further spread of the infection. I’ve seen this same thing happen with SARS and it seems trivial, but is very real,” Porter said.

He suggested checking the CDC website for the most current information about COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people. Signs and symptoms, similar to the common cold or the flu, include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, and general feeling of being unwell.

flu

Since the start of the flu season in October through Feb. 22, 2020, Arizona has had 25,791 confirmed cases of the flu. A third of all the cases were in those ranging in age from 5 to 49. Gila County has had more than 360 confirmed cases of the flu.

Contact tmcquerrey@payson.com

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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