Despite accelerated federal assistance, school closures, cancellation of public gatherings, a stay-at-home order from Gov. Doug Ducey, and businesses limiting services that require human contact, cases of coronavirus in Arizona and in the United States continue to rise.
Here’s what you need to know about the fast-spreading respiratory virus that causes COVID-19.
To date, there have been 1,769 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona. Maricopa County — with 1,047 cases — has the greatest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona.
Arizona’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in January, shortly after a man in the Arizona State University community returned from Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected in late December. University officials say that man has recovered and been released from isolation.
Navajo Nation seeks more resources as cases rise to 241
Navajo Nation leaders and health officials are searching for additional resources for the reservation – from doctors to care facilities – to prepare in the event the COVID-19 outbreak worsens, they said in a virtual town hall Friday morning.
Tribal health officials have reported 241 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths as of Thursday, April 2. In addition, they said, 1,796 individuals on the reservation tested negative for the virus. In a phone call with President Donald Trump earlier this week, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham warned the illness could “wipe out” indigenous people in the Four Corners region.
The Navajo Nation is looking to increase the number of doctors, nurses and housekeepers to work against the outbreak as officials report rising numbers in the area. Health officials looked at both projections and actual cases of COVID-19 in the reservation to determine additional staff loads, said Roselyn Tso, service director of the Navajo Area Indian Health.
The plan also calls for finding additional locations to open care facilities if needed, called “alternate sites for care.”
“Because the patients that we’re seeing are in different stages, not all of them may need to come to a hospital, so we’re finding other places that they might be able to go to self-quarantine,” Tso said. “Or even when they get better. They need to go somewhere for a little while just to continue to recuperate.”
To contain the spread of the virus, the Navajo Nation imposed a daily curfew on March 30 on all of its residents effective from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The curfew does not apply to what are deemed essential employees by the nation.
UArizona ships COVID-19 collection kits to Navajo Nation
Another effort to help the Navajo Nation combat the outbreak in northern Arizona is coming from the opposite side of the state – in Tucson. The UArizona Health Sciences Department delivered 250 COVID-19 kits to the reservation on Friday.
“Regrettably, the Navajo Nation has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus and needs these tests to help protect their community,” UArizona President Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. “We are sending these sample collection kits in the hopes they can assist in their efforts to address COVID-19, and we thank the president, the speaker and the council for their tireless work.”
COVID-19, which the World Health Organization says has killed more than 7,800 around the world, can be difficult to detect and monitor. Symptoms in confirmed patients ranged from none to mild to severe, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the illness, and can include:
• Shortness of breath
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, likely through direct contact with respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.
With most respiratory viruses, people are most contagious when they’re exhibiting symptoms. With COVID-19, there have been reports of spread before patients exhibited any symptoms.
There’s no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 or a cure for it, though some patients recover. Arizona health officials suggest the following actions to help prevent the spread of the illness:
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home when you’re feeling sick.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands).
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Testing for coronavirus
Travel is a major factor in deciding whether to get tested, state health officials said. Seek testing if you’ve had a fever and respiratory symptoms within two weeks of travel from China, or have had close contact with someone who has the symptoms and has traveled to China. Call your health care provider before your visit to alert them of your symptoms and exposures, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The kit developed by the CDC tests for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which is the virus that causes COVID-19. These tests can only be conducted in United States’ laboratories the CDC has designated as qualified.
Arizona began commercial testing Wednesday to produce faster results. The state has vowed to provide testing outcome updates daily, and national updates are expected from the CDC on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The U.S. State Department Thursday to advised Americans to avoid all overseas travel, issuing a Global Level 4 Health Advisory.
Travel out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will continue, airport spokesman Gregory E. Roybal said, and “public health officials have not requested any specific changes to Phoenix Sky Harbor’s standard health and safety protocols related to the virus.”
On Thursday, the airport announced that two of the four Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in Terminal 4 have been closed, as has the TSA Precheck center in Terminal 4, which expedited clearance of preapproved, low-risk passengers.
On Tuesday, airport officials reported a drop the number of international flights that travel through the airport, with airport spokesperson Krishna Patel telling The Arizona Republic passenger traffic has dropped by 30% over this time last year.
In addition to regular 24-hour cleaning, the airport has increased the sanitation of “high-touch areas,” such as escalator railings, Roybal said. The Phoenix Aviation Department is in touch with health officials and will take action as directed.
Child care plan for frontline workers
Starting Monday, April 6, new child care centers will be available to children of first responders, critical health care workers and essential public sector workers, including child safety workers, the Governor’s Office and the Arizona Department of Education said Friday.
ASU researchers testing wastewater in Tempe for COVID-19
Researchers at Arizona State University are in the early stages of testing whether COVID-19 can be detected in wastewater, the Arizona Republic reports. Professor Rolf Halden and his team have led similar efforts at the university, monitoring wastewater for other viruses, such as the flu, across 30 cities nationwide, but Halden told the Republic that Tempe is believed to be the first city to detect other viruses in untreated sewage. If the method for testing COVID-19 proves successful, researchers will begin tracking trends from different parts of Tempe’s sewage system.
ASU launches drive-thru testing for essential workers
The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University launched its COVID-19 drive-thru testing on Thursday after more than a week of delays, Cronkite News reported. Testing is not open to the public and is reserved for essential workers such as first responders and hospital workers. The university currently has 4,000 testing kits made and plans to make 10,000 more in the next week.
Red Rock District announces closures of recreation sites
The Coconino National Forest this weekend will close 10 of its most popular recreation sites in the Sedona area in response to concerns over large numbers of hikers congregating and not practicing social distancing. The list of trails and day-use sites that will close can be found here.
How to help
The Singletons, a Phoenix nonprofit that serves single-parent households battling cancer, is running low on essential items to help one of the most vulnerable populations during the pandemic. The organization is looking for such items as toilet paper, laundry detergent and disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.