152 Coronavirus Cases Are Confirmed in Arizona, and State Sees Second Death

A British politician visits a coronavirus testing laboratory in Leeds, England.
A British politician visits a coronavirus testing laboratory in Leeds, England. Flickr via HM Treasury
This story recaps the biggest developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak from the past several days. For detailed case-by-case information on all of Arizona's 152 coronavirus cases, read our running list.

On Sunday morning, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced that a second person had died from COVID-19. The man was a Maricopa County resident in his 70s who had an underlying health condition.

The ADHS also identified 48 additional COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the state ADHS total to 152. That number does not include some additional cases in Arizona announced by the Navajo Nation late last night, but it's unclear how many of the Navajo's cases are not included in today's ADHS count (a press release from the Nation stated there are four cases in Chinle Service Unit, which is in Apache County, but the ADHS website reports only three cases).

State and local health officials expect that number to continue rising exponentially as testing becomes more widely available. The state's lag in testing — and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's delay in restricting businesses like bars, gyms, and restaurants, and limiting public gatherings — means we can expect to see hundreds more cases in the coming weeks.

"COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions," a press release from ADHS states. "ADHS expects to see more cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and there could be additional deaths. ADHS advises everyone to take precautions."

On Friday evening, the state marked a grim milestone when officials reported Arizona's first death from COVID-19.

The Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced that a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions had died from the 2019 novel coronavirus. The man worked for the Phoenix Aviation Department, according to a letter City Manager Ed Zuercher sent employees. Zuercher said the man worked in a remote office of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and had minimal public interaction with any of the terminals and airport facilities.

In Maricopa County, 32 additional people have tested positive for COVID-19 since Saturday, bringing the countywide total to 81. Maricopa County has community spread of the virus (meaning the source of the infection is unknown). The county has the state's highest concentration of cases and has been the only place so far where deaths have been reported.

Though Maricopa County no longer provides detailed case information, a chart from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health indicates that 17 people who have contracted COVID-19 in the county have been hospitalized and four are in the intensive care unit. Eight of those who are hospitalized just went to the hospital in the past 24 hours.

MCDPH chart of the county's COVID-19 cases - MARICOPA COUNTY
MCDPH chart of the county's COVID-19 cases
Maricopa County
At least one of the recent Maricopa County cases involves a veteran who tested positive at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix. Another involves a city of Peoria employee, ABC15 News reported.

Arizona State University’s student-run State Press news outlet reported on Saturday that one of the recent Maricopa County cases involves a resident of the Cottages of Tempe, a popular housing location for ASU students. According to the State Press, that person is self-quarantining and has not been to common areas since March 17.

A 56-year-old woman from Gilbert said on Facebook yesterday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating at home. She said she is experiencing severe symptoms including pneumonia, a deep cough, body aches and pains, and a low-grade fever. She is otherwise healthy and believes she may have contracted the virus while on a trip to New York earlier this month.

Additionally, a 69-year-old man from Chandler told New Times on Saturday that he had tested positive for the virus. He went to the emergency room at Chandler Regional on March 13 after returning from a trip to Thailand with a fever and a hacking cough. It took about a week to get his results. On Friday, the man found out he had tested positive for COVID-19. He has been self-isolating ever since getting tested and is experiencing a fever, cough, and aches and pains.

The Navajo Nation has 26 cases total as of Sunday morning. A press release from the Nation states that 18 cases are from the Kayenta Service Unit (in Navajo County, Arizona). Four are from the Chinle Service Unit (Apache County) and three are from the Tuba City Service Unit (Coconino County), both of which are in Arizona. One is from the Crownpoint Service Unit, which is in New Mexico. That would mean 25 of the Navajo Nation's cases are in Arizona.

Many of the cases originate from the community of Chilchinbeto, prompting the Navajo Health Command Operations Center to issue a Public Health Emergency Order requiring the closure of the community for quarantine and isolation (a shelter-in-place order) to limit the spread of the virus.

On Friday night, the Navajo Nation expanded the stay-at-home order to apply to all residents of the Nation. The order requires residents to remain isolated at home and requires all nonessential businesses to close to prevent further spread of the virus.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez approved a $4 million appropriation to the Navajo Department of Health to fight the spread of COVID-19 within the Nation on Friday. The funds will be used to deliver resources and equipment to health care professionals and emergency response personnel on the ground.

Besides the increase in Maricopa and Navajo, since Saturday:

Pima added five new cases (17 total). The county provided no additional details.

Pinal added two new cases (16 total). The two cases involve a woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s. Both are isolated at home and recovering. Both are close contacts of another Pinal County case. According to Pinal County health officials, of the county's 16 total cases, 15 are home recovering in isolation or fully recovered, meaning only one person is hospitalized.

Coconino identified three new cases (14 total). Coconino County has tested hundreds of people and has two drive-thru testing sites. At least nine of the 14 total Coconino cases originate from the Flagstaff area.

Yavapai identified two new cases (three total). The county did not provide any additional details, but local news publications have reported that the two new cases are from Prescott and Sedona. The Prescott case involves a “senior citizen.” The Daily Courier reported that the county’s first case, which was from Sedona, involves a 72-year-old man.

Graham identified one new case. Graham County Health Director Brian Douglas did not immediately respond when asked for further information on that case. But the Eastern Arizona Courier reported that the second Graham County resident to test positive for COVID-19 is related to the county’s first case, which involved a Pima Elementary School teacher who unknowingly exposed 166 fifth- and sixth-graders to the virus after she contracted it from a friend visiting from Virginia.

On Saturday, two additional counties — Cochise and Apache — announced their first positive cases.

Apache has not released any information on the people who tested positive for COVID-19 there. But Cochise County officials said the case involves an adult woman who contracted the virus after domestic travel and is home recovering in isolation. The woman's spouse works at Fort Huachuca, an Army base near Sierra Vista, though the couple does not live at the base, according to Fort Huachuca officials.

It is the fourth case involving military personnel in the state. On Friday morning, Yuma County officials identified their first positive case as a local Marine from the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, according to Colonel David Suggs from MCAS Yuma. On Wednesday, a message provided on Facebook by the 56th Fighter Wing Commander at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Brigadier General Todd Canterbury, stated that two individuals from the base tested positive for COVID-19.

As the number of positive cases continues to rise, Ducey has activated 200 members of the National Guard to help distribute food, and extended school closures until April 10. Travel restrictions have been put in place along the Arizona-Mexico border, and several Arizona colleges have decided to cancel spring graduation ceremonies.

To date, the state public health lab (ASPHL) has tested 408 people (only 14 additional people since Saturday).

So far, 282 cases have been ruled out. There are 87 cases are pending, and 37 of the samples tested by ASPHL have come back positive. An additional 115 samples tested by private labs have also come back positive, but officials have yet to provide data on the number of tests carried out by commercial labs.

The testing currently being done in Arizona, which has a population of more than 7 million, still does not nearly meet the level of aggressive testing that experts say is required to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus.

"There are not enough tests for everyone who wants to be tested at this time," said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, at a press conference on Thursday morning, stating that there is a national shortage of tests for COVID-19.

On March 11, there were 1,200 cases of the coronavirus across 41 states in the country.

As of Sunday morning, there are nearly 30,000 known cases across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories. At least 377 Americans have died since becoming infected. The majority of the cases are in New York state (15,168 confirmed cases, up 4,812 since yesterday, and 114 deaths).

(Correction: This story initially stated there are 164 COVID-19 cases in Arizona. This over-counted some of the Navajo Nation cases that had already been included in the Arizona Department of Health Services' count. Some of the Navajo Nation's total cases in Arizona still do not appear to be reflected in today's numbers from ADHS, but for clarity's sake, this article reports the case total that ADHS has reported.)
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.