Gov. Doug Ducey March 11 issued a Declaration of Emergency and an Executive Order to provide health officials and administrators with the tools and guidance necessary to combat the continued spread of COVID-19 and to reduce financial burdens on Arizonans by lowering health care costs associated with the virus.
“While our state is not currently facing the number of cases we’ve seen in some other states, we are anticipating additional positive cases — and we’re not taking any chances. Arizonans should not panic — our approach will be calm and steady. This Emergency Declaration and Executive Order continue our effort to protect public health and save lives,” said Ducey.
The Emergency Declaration provides the following tools to address the spread of COVID-19:
• Establishes the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) as the entity responsible for coordinating all matters pertaining to the public health emergency response of the state.
• Allows ADHS to waive licensing requirements to provide health care officials with assistance in delivering services during times of heightened demand.
• It also allows the state to access $500,000 in emergency funds to aid in measures and resources to protect public health.
• Provides the state with emergency procurement authority to procure goods and services as needed to protect public health.
The Governor’s Executive Order is aimed at protecting Arizonans and populations at high-risk of serious complications from this virus. The order:
• Requires insurance companies and health plans to cover out of network providers, including out of plan laboratories and telemedicine providers.
• Waives all copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for consumers related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing and decreases co-pays for telemedicine visits.
• Implements consumer protections, including prohibiting price-gouging on COVID-19 of diagnosis and treatment-related services.
• Requires symptom checks of health care workers and visitors at skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.
Supervisors get update on COVID-19
The Gila County Board of Supervisors had an unscheduled update on coronavirus COVID-19 at its March 10 meeting.
Michael O’Driscoll, director of Gila County Health and Emergency Management gave the update.
He said as of Monday, March 10, the state had six reported cases of COVID-19. There are no cases in Gila County. Additionally, two of the state’s largest labs, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, which is the parent company of Sonora Quest, are now authorized to test for COVID-19. However the labs will only accept test samples collected in appropriate health care settings, such as physician offices and hospitals.
As of the March 10 meeting, O’Driscoll said worldwide there are 115,000 confirmed cases and the global death rate has surpassed 4,000. As of March 10, the U.S. has had 27 deaths from COVID-19, with 23 in Washington state, two in Florida and two in California.
“It is important to keep in perspective at this time that so far this flu season in the U.S. there have been at least 34 million flu illnesses with 350,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths from the flu,” O’Driscoll said.
“Arizona has shown widespread flu activity this last week ... with 27,785 cases reported throughout the season so far.”
Some Payson area health care facilities are taking precautions to protect their residents.
Powell Place, 806 W. Longhorn Road, is discouraging visitors and limiting exposure to anyone from outside the facility, according to a spokesman for the assisted living campus. Staff gets updates daily from its parent corporation, Enlivant, which is staying on top of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Tabitha Meyer, administrator, Rim Country Health & Rehabilitation (RCH) takes precautionary measures each flu season. “We will continue to keep our residents and outpatients safe. The current COVID-19 outbreak situation means that it is critical that we take every precaution possible. We must prevent this virus from entering our center. Protecting our residents’ health and safety is our top priority.”
She said early data shows that nursing homes are at a higher risk with several facilities around the country having residents testing positive for the COVID-19 virus; with a mortality rate higher than average flu seasons.
“There have been no cases of the COVID-19 flu virus on the RCH campus to date. This is why we are now limiting visits until further notice. Our residents’ health and safety are our top concern. We ask for your understanding while we limit visits to our facility. This may prevent you from physically seeing your family member or friend. Again, these are precautionary measures until further notice or changes in our community. We are committed to doing everything we can to protect them,” Meyer concluded.
In addition to the care facilities, as a precaution the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce decided March 12 to close its visitor center for the next two weeks.
O’Driscoll said COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Most — 80% — develop only mild symptoms. Those most likely to develop severe symptoms are those 60 and older and individuals with other medical conditions, especially heart or lung disease.