Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Your Southern AZ Coronavirus AM Roundup for Tuesday, March 31: 1,289 Confirmed Cases in the State; 24 Now Dead; Ducey Tells Arizonans To Stay Home; School Year Canceled; Nursing Home Outbreak

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 9:03 AM

The coronavirus has now killed 24 people statewide, including six in Pima County, as of Tuesday, March 31, according to the morning report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

A total of 1,289 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Arizona. There are now 202 confirmed cases in Pima County, where six people have died after contracting the virus.

Officials at Sapphire of Tucson, a southside Tucson nursing home and rehabilitation center, revealed yesterday that it had 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases among its residents and patients.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 788.

Gov. Doug Ducey yesterday closed the public schools through the rest of the academic year and issued a statewide stay-at-home order yesterday to discourage people from venturing out as the outbreak spreads. Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (and some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials say community spread of the disease is far worse than the official numbers suggest. They have urged the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people.

Under the order, Arizonans are still able to shop for groceries, medical and household needs, and pet supplies. They can also go work, pick up a take-out meal from a restaurant, travel to take care of a family member, friend or pet, and can still go walking, hiking, biking and golfing, provided that they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“Slowing the spread of COVID-19 will ensure we build capacity in our healthcare system, and help protect the lives of those we love most,” Ducey said. “It’s important to emphasize that there are no plans to shut down grocery stores. People should continue to buy what you need for a week’s worth of groceries."

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said Ducey’s order does not go far enough and he should narrow his list of “essential businesses” that cannot be closed without approval from the state—a list that includes golf courses, barbershops and beauty salons.

“I urge Gov. Doug Ducey to narrow his list to reflect those services that are truly essential to Arizonans’ well-being,” Romero said via Twitter yesterday.

Many Tucson businesses closed over the weekend after Mayor Regina Romero issued an order to shutter all non-essential businesses that are unprotected from mandatory closure by Ducey, who has said that Arizona needs to have consistent rules statewide. Romero’s order is effective through Friday, April 17.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer,” Romero said. “COVID-19 is not waiting and neither can we.”

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus yesterday warned against people having house parties while the stay-at-home order was in effect, noting that house parties are not listed as an essential activity in Ducey’s order. Magnus said while police would typically give a warning to those who violate emergency orders, scofflaws could find themselves charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

“The worst consequence would be if you pass this virus on to someone who has a serious illness or dies as a result,” Magnus said. “That could be a family member, a friend, or someone you’ve never met. Although it’s especially dangerous for older people and people with certain underlying conditions, this coronavirus can have serious consequences for anyone, regardless of age or health. No matter who you are, you are not immune.”

In the face of the spreading virus, Ducey has also halted to evictions for 120 days; ordered bars, gyms and theaters to be closed in any county with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Critics say Ducey should go further and issue a state-at-home order for the state.

Ducey has also halted all elective surgery to keep hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients; loosened regulations to make telemedicine more available and increase eligibility for AHCCCS, the state's Medicaid program; and activated the National Guard to assist in grocery stores as Arizonans clear the shelves.

With schools now closed through the end of the academic year, teachers are transitioning to online learning and districts across the region are delivering lunch and breakfast meals to kids via school buses or setting up central locations.

Courts have rescheduled most hearings to avoid spreading the virus.

COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include headache, fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. However, some cases of the virus are entirely asymptomatic. Practices to avoid infection include social distancing (of at least six feet), washing your hands, avoiding unnecessary trips and not touching your face. COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on stainless steel and plastic surfaces up to three days.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, speak with a healthcare provider for medical advice. According to the CDC, people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Stay at home and avoid public transportation, but stay in touch with your doctor. If you do leave your home, wear a facemask and clean your hands often. If you develop more severe symptoms (persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips) get medical attention immediately. Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

Have you caught COVID-19? Are you feeling ill? Is your small business struggling to make it? Have you lost your job as a result of the outbreak? Are you struggling to manage your kids while schools are closed? Tell us your COVID-19 stories. Send an email or photo to tucsoneditor@tucsonlocalmedia.com.

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