‘It’s here:’ Pima County Health Department shares update on COVID-19 spread

‘It’s here:’ Pima County Health Department shares update on COVID-19 spread
The coronavirus (Source: cdc)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - “It’s here. You just need to act like it’s in our community.”

That’s what the director of the Pima County Health Department said Monday night after the first death due to COVID-19 was reported in the county.

The individual was a woman in her 50s with underlying health conditions that may have put her at higher risk. PCHD received the positive lab report Monday evening. The woman’s death was the third in the state linked to the coronavirus.

“I think the horse is out of the barn. We’ve got a lot of community spread right now," said Dr. Bob England.

The positive test result marked the 25th case of COVID-19 in Pima County as of March 23. Health Department officials expect the number of cases will continue to increase as testing becomes more widely available.

“We will have people die at home. We will have people die at the hospital. We will have people die who had their tests beforehand and those who didn’t. This thing is going to increase," said Dr. England. “We’re trying to keep the relative level down and it’s going to be bad.”

Banner Health notified the media Monday that a drive-thru COVID-19 specimen collection site in Tucson is now open. Patients much call to determine if an appointment is necessary.

Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Director and Chief Medical Officer for Pima County, said testing is still lagging behind needs in the area. Because of the shortage, testing is now restricted to the very sick, first responders and medical personnel.

“Until we have sufficient collection media and swabs, our testing won’t be sufficient," said Dr. Garcia.

Dr. Garcia said about 80 percent of the people stricken with the virus will not need to be tested.

“Don’t forget, just a couple years ago here we probably lost about 200 people to the flu. Almost nobody noticed.,” said Dr. England. "This time, you’re going to get a daily count as we go through this and people are going to notice a lot more. It’s going to be worse than it was two years ago. We just don’t know how much worse.”

Dr. England urges anyone who feels sick to stay home and for employers to not tell their workers they have to get to work. He said the ‘measured mitigation’ in place to slow the spread could be around for months.

For the most current data and more information about COVID-19, visit www.pima.gov/COVID19.

Protecting yourself and your family

The easiest way to slow the spread of the virus is for everyone to practice basic hygiene:

  • Wash your hands frequently (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds)
  • Cover your mouth (with a tissue or your sleeve) when you cough.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • If you need to seek medical care, before going to your doctor’s office, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

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