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The CDC’s laboratory test kit for the 2019 novel coronavirus.
The CDC’s laboratory test kit for the 2019 novel coronavirus.
CDC

Tenth Coronavirus Case Confirmed in Arizona

UPDATE: Two more people have tested positive as of the morning of Saturday, March 14. That brings the total count of confirmed cases up to 12.

Ten people now have tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus in Arizona. While the latest stats on the Arizona Department of Health Services' website only reflect nine cases (it was last updated this morning at 9 a.m.), Pima County Health Department officials tonight announced a second presumptive positive case, bringing the statewide total up to 10.

On March 9, Pima County health officials identified their first presumptive positive coronavirus case. At this time, there is no clear link between the new case identified today and the March 9 case, health officials said in a press release.

How the individual contracted the virus remains under investigation. The infected individual and his or her household contacts are at home in isolation and under observation, health officials said. The individual had recently traveled to another state, though officials are not yet sure whether he or she contracted the virus while traveling.

A spokesperson for the Pima County Health Department did not respond when asked for further information on the new presumptive positive case, including the person's age.

"PCHD is working to identify additional close contacts that may have been exposed while the person was infectious," a press release from the Pima County Health Department states. "Any individuals who have been identified as having been exposed will be contacted directly. These individuals will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms in collaboration with PCHD and medical providers."

So far, 143 people in Arizona have been tested for the virus. Ninety-four tests have been ruled out and 39 are still pending. There have been 10 confirmed positive cases or presumptive positive cases.

There are now nearly 2,100 known cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States across 48 states and Washington, D.C. At least 48 people have died since becoming infected. A majority of the cases and deaths are in Washington state (509 cases, 37 deaths as of Friday afternoon). New York has 421 cases; California has 276 cases and four deaths.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. That same day, Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency, saying he was "not taking any chances" as the state expects more cases.

Declaring a state of emergency gives the state powers it doesn't usually have in order to combat the spread of the virus. It allows DHS to waive licensing laws should hospitals need to hire nurses and doctors from out of state, and it allows the governor and DHS to mandate medical exams and ration medicine and vaccines.

Fast-Moving Problem

The first case of COVID-19 in Arizona was confirmed in late January, when a member of the Arizona State University community who recently had traveled to Wuhan, China, tested positive for the virus. That case already has been resolved: After nearly a month in isolation, the ASU member was cleared of the virus following multiple negative tests from the CDC and was released.

On March 3, DHS identified a second positive case involving a man in his 20s. That patient was transported to HonorHealth's Scottsdale Osborn location; however, he has since returned home and is in isolation. The man contracted the virus after coming into contact with another presumptive positive patient outside of Arizona, health officials said.

Five Scottsdale first responders who transported and evaluated the second person are under isolation protocol, Scottsdale city officials said on March 5.

Then, on March 6, a Pinal County health care worker in her 40s was hospitalized after testing positive for the virus. The case represents the first instance of community spread in Arizona, meaning the source of the infection is unknown — the woman had not come into close contact with anyone known to be infected with COVID-19 and had not traveled to an affected area like Wuhan.

One day after that, DHS announced that two more people had tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total from three to five. Those two people are the son and husband of the infected health care worker and share a household with her. The health care worker and her husband remain hospitalized but are recovering and in stable condition, a spokesperson for Pinal County Public Health told Phoenix New Times on Thursday.

The son is a student at the American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek. The DHS said the boy did not visit the campus while ill, is not seriously ill, has fully recovered and returned home. The school is still taking precautionary measures to clean the campus while students are away for spring break this week and set up sanitation stations throughout the school.

New Cases, More Closures

On March 9, a sixth positive COVID-19 case in Arizona was identified by Pima County health officials. The patient, who resides in unincorporated Pima County and recently returned from traveling in an area with community spread of the virus, is not severely ill and is currently recovering at home in isolation, county health officials said in a press release.

A spokesperson for the Pima County Health Department told New Times on Thursday that person diagnosed in Pima County "has fully recovered. They didn't have hospitalizing-level symptoms; they never needed that level of care."

The Pima Unified School District closed on Thursday amid reports that some Pima Elementary School students may have been exposed to "an unknown illness." The city of Pima is in Graham County, not Pima.

On Wednesday, two people over the age of 60 who also reside in the same household as the infected health care worker have tested positive for COVID-19. That makes five of Arizona's nine cases all originating from the same household.

"Both cases are over sixty years old and from the same household as the three current Pinal County cases. They are recovering at home," a spokesperson for Pinal County Public Health said in a press release, adding that county health officials are continuing to investigate the cases and any close contacts the infected individuals may have had.

The latest presumptive positive case in Maricopa County involves a man in his 90s who is recovering at a hospital and is in stable condition, county health officials said.

It seems likely the man was at a nursing home, assisted living facility, or some sort of long-term care for the elderly when he was infected: A spokesperson for Maricopa County Public Health told ABC15 News (KNXV-TV) that the county is "working with the facility on approved cleaning recommendations," but would not say what facility the patient was in, or where the facility was.

At a press conference on Wednesday, DHS director Dr. Cara Christ said Maricopa County will "be working directly with that health care provider to ensure there is appropriate cleaning put in place, appropriate protocol and ongoing monitoring."

Asked by New Times to provide more details about what steps are being taken to contain the spread of the virus at the facility, a spokesperson for Maricopa County Public Health said only, "You can see the CDC guidance on cleaning at the CDC COVID-19 site." The spokesperson would not say whether the man lived in a nursing home or on his own.

Sonia Singh, a spokesperson for Maricopa County Public Health, said the man in his 20s is in stable condition at home and remains under observation by MCDPH, while the man in his 90s remains hospitalized but in stable condition.

Asked whether all of the close contacts of the two active Maricopa County cases had been identified and tested, Singh said only, "Close contacts have been contacted and advised to monitor for symptoms and contact Public Health if any symptoms appear." She did not respond to a follow-up question about whether the 90-year-old's close contacts from the facility he was at had been tested.

In Washington, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been especially deadly, 18 residents of the same nursing facility have died. Across the country, long-term care centers for the elderly are taking steps to reduce visits and isolate the vulnerable elderly populations they serve.

On Wednesday, Ducey issued an executive order aimed at protecting those most at risk of COVID-19: the elderly and immuno-compromised. Among other things, the order requires nursing home and assisted living facilities to implement visitor policies including enhanced symptom checks for visitors and workers.

Later on Wednesday evening, Arizona State University announced it will transition from in-person classes to online instruction. The change goes into effect Monday, March 16. Classes will continue on an online basis for two weeks, at which point the school will "assess where things stand with COVID-19," ASU President Michael Crow said in an email to students.

Northern Arizona University and Grand Canyon University have since followed suit. Meanwhile, a handful of schools across the state have closed due to concerns over the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Those at highest risk for contracting the virus have traveled to an area where the virus is spreading, or have come into close contact with a person who is diagnosed as having COVID-19.

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 are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

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