104 Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in Arizona, State Sees First COVID-19 Death

The 2019 novel coronavirus.U.S. Army
The 2019 novel coronavirus.U.S. Army U.S. Army
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 104 coronavirus cases, read our running list.

On Saturday morning, the Arizona Department of Health Services identified 30 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 104. In the past three weeks, 102 people have tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus, but 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.

On Friday evening, the state marked a grim milestone: 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.

Since yesterday, two new counties have announced their first presumptive positive cases for COVID-19: Cochise and Apache. So far, people have tested positive for COVID-19 in 11 of Arizona's 15 counties.

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, though the couple does not live at the fort, according to Fort Huachuca officials.

Fort Huachuca is a U.S. Army base that is home to the Army Intelligence Center and roughly 6,500 active duty soldiers, 7,400 dependents, and 5,000 civilian employees.

"At this time Fort Huachuca Public Health and the Cochise County Public Health teams are working closely together to complete contact tracing and notification of close contacts (a 12-36 hour process)," said Major General Laura Potter, commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, in a Facebook post. "Once identified, these close contacts will be quickly placed in quarantine or isolation, and tested if necessary."

It is the fourth case involving military personnel in the state. On Friday morning, Yuma County officials identified their first positive case. The infected person is a local Marine from the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, according to Colonel David Suggs from MCAS Yuma. Officials said the person had a recent travel history and presented with symptoms on March 13.

At that point, his movement was restricted and he was told to self-quarantine while waiting for his test results. The test came back positive yesterday. Officials said they had identified and tested 10 other people who showed signs but only the one Marine came back positive.

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. Both individuals and their families have been isolated at home since first showing symptoms. No further details on the age or sex of the infected people were provided.

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.

In Maricopa County, 15 additional people have tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday, bringing the countywide total to 49. Maricopa County has community spread of the virus (meaning the source of the infection is unknown) and has the state's highest concentration of cases.

Though Maricopa County no longer provides detailed case information, a chart from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health indicates nine people who have contracted COVID-19 in the county have been hospitalized and three are in the Intensive Care Unit.

Chart of COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County - MARICOPA COUNTY
Chart of COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County
Maricopa County

On Thursday night, the Navajo Nation announced 11 new cases, bringing the Nation's total to 14. The new cases announced by Navajo late on Thursday were not included in the case count on the DHS website on Friday morning (only the same three that had previously been announced were). Today, the DHS website indicates there are 10 cases in Navajo, indicating that 4 of the 14 cases announced by the Navajo Nation are out of state in either Utah or New Mexico.

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 Chilchinbeto 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 at home and isolated 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.

COVID-19 cases in Arizona - MEG O'CONNOR
COVID-19 cases in Arizona
Meg O'Connor
Besides the increase in Maricopa and the new cases in Cochise and Apache, since Friday:

• Pinal County added four new cases (14 total). The four Pinal county cases involve a woman in her 40s, a woman in her 60s, a man in his 60s, and another man in his 70s. All four are home recovering in isolation and none of the cases are connected to each other or any previously identified cases, officials said.
• Pima also added four new cases (12 total). The county provided no additional details.
• Coconino identified three new cases (11 total). Coconino County has tested 171 people and has two drive-thru testing sites. At least seven of the 11 total Coconino cases originate from the Flagstaff area.

To date, the state public health lab (ASPHL) has tested 394 people (only 51 additional people since Friday).

So far, 240 cases have been ruled out. There are 122 cases are pending, and 32 of the samples tested by ASPHL have come back positive. An additional 72 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.

Just eight days ago, there were 1,200 cases of the coronavirus across 41 states in the country.

As of Friday morning, there are nearly 20,000 known cases across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories. At least 275 Americans have died since becoming infected. The majority of the cases are in New York state (10,356 cases, a 3,000-plus increase since yesterday, and 56 deaths).
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.