Twelve people have have tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus in Arizona, according to the latest stats on the Arizona Department of Health Services' website. The stats were updated on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and show that since the last new cases were announced by DHS on Wednesday, an additional 83 people have been tested for the virus, with three more coming back positive.
The three new cases are in Pima County, Graham County, and Maricopa County.
The Graham County case is the first confirmed case in that county, meaning the COVID-19 outbreak now has extended to four Arizona counties. On Friday night, the Pima Unified School District (in Graham County) said that a staff member of Pima Elementary School had tested positive for the virus.
The school district already had closed on Thursday as a precaution. Pima Elementary has about 500 K-6th grade students. Superintendent Sean Rickert told KJZZ he estimates about 166 students could have come into contact with the employee.
"We have asked the students who she came in contact with to self-quarantine," Rickert told KJZZ. "We have also asked staff members that had contact with that staff member to self-quarantine. We are working with the county health department to take whatever steps we can to address this issue in a way that preserves our public health system."
The new case in Pima County was also announced locally last night. 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."
The latest Maricopa County case (the fourth so far) involves a woman in her 30s who is isolated and recovering at home, MCDPH said in a statement issued on Twitter, adding that they are investigating the woman's close contacts to try to stop the spread of the virus.
The Situation So Far
To date, 183 people in Arizona have been tested for the virus; 121 tests have been ruled out and 50 are still pending. There have been 12 confirmed positive cases or presumptive positive cases.
There are now nearly 2,200 known cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States across 49 states and Washington, D.C. At least 49 people have died since becoming infected. A majority of the cases and deaths are in Washington state (510 cases, 37 deaths as of Saturday morning). New York has 421 cases and its first death this morning; California has 314 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Aaron Pacheco, a spokesperson for the Pima County Health Department told New Times on Thursday that the person diagnosed in Pima County "has fully recovered. They didn't have hospitalizing-level symptoms; they never needed that level of care."
However, when asked whether "fully recovered" meant the patient had tested negative for the virus, Pacheco seemed surprised by the question. "I don't know how that works," he said. "I think the science is still out on how long someone would test positive."
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," James Daniels, 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 third COVID-19 case in Maricopa County was announced on Wednesday and involves a man in his 90s who is recovering at a hospital and is in stable condition.
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: Sonia Singh, 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."
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Asked by New Times to provide more details about what steps are being taken to contain the spread of the virus at the facility, Singh 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.
It's unclear whether all of the close contacts of the two active Maricopa County cases had been identified and tested: "Close contacts have been contacted and advised to monitor for symptoms and contact Public Health if any symptoms appear," Singh said. 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.
Ducey also issued an executive order on Wednesday was 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.