On a Monday, March 9 meeting about coronavirus, Pima County District 5 Supervisor Richard Elías put it bluntly: “It’s only a matter of time before it’s here.”
With three cases of the global virus confirmed in Pinal County, and an estimated 120 residents of Pima County being evaluated, it seems the virus entering Tucson is inevitable. But the Pima County Health Department reassures the public not to worry, and to treat the spreading virus as they would a bad flu season. To date, no cases have been confirmed in Pima County.
“The vast majority of healthy people will get through this just like we get though the flu season, but our elders and those who are ill are the ones who will have the most serious consequences,” Elías said. “Our community needs to know that this isn’t something that is going to come and go... We are going to be dealing with this illness for some time until it runs its course.”
Pima County representatives request the public to use “common sense” regarding coronavirus: wash your hands, avoid others if you feel sick, cover your cough and don’t touch your face.
“We are actively working with local, state and federal partners to monitor and prepare for the presence of COVID-19 in Pima County,” said mayor Regina Romero. “I want to emphasize that both the county and city have protocols in place to deal with exactly this kind of situation, and are ready to respond to when the virus presents itself in our region… as with other illnesses, sticking to the basics can go a long way.”
Francisco Garcia, chief medical officer of the Pima County Health Department highlighted three important messages in response to the “rapidly evolving situation”: this is the time to optimize your health and the health of your family; we need to focus on protecting the vulnerable – such as the elderly and the medically frail; we need to make sure our first responders are taken care of and are using the correct policies regarding this virus.
“We haven’t found a single case of this testing positive in Pima County yet, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s going to be here,” said Bob England of the Pima County Health Department. “This is probably going to feel to us like a bad flu season. So just as we lose tens of thousands of Americans each year to the flu, this will tragically kill many people. There’s no getting around that, but it's going to be like what we experience every year… We got a lot to learn, but there are a lot of good indications for us to treat this the same way we treat influenza.”
England says he cannot foresee a circumstance where Pima County would need to close a school, as children are becoming infected less often and less severely.
For more information on the disease, and how to best protect yourself, Pima County has established the website pima.gov/covid19