Friday, May 15, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, May 15: Last Day of State's Stay-at-Home Order; Mayor Romero Says Gov. Ducey Is Moving Too Fast To Reopen State; AZ's Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 Top 13K; Death Toll Rises To 651

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 9:06 AM

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona topped 13,000 as of Friday, May 15, according to the morning report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. ‹

Pima County had 1,750 of the state's 13,169 confirmed cases.

The coronavirus had killed 651 people statewide, including 155 in Pima County, according to the report.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen to 6,821.

Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.

Arizona's stay-at-home order expires today. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced this week that gyms, pools and movie theaters can now reopen. Ducey also invited major-league sports to play in Arizona, although he said it would have to be without fans in the audience.

Ducey had already given the green light for restaurants and bars that offer food service to reopen this week. Restrictions were lifted on stores, barber shops and salons last week.

Ducey said he hoped that schools would be able to reopen in the fall but was yet not ready to make that call.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said yesterday that Ducey was moving forward too quickly on reopening the state.

"As eager as we all are to return to any sense of normalcy, I believe that the Governor is moving too quickly and that we should proceed methodically and cautiously to prevent a re-emergence that would be even more damaging to our economy in the long-run," Romero said. "Dr. Fauci and our nation's top health experts testified earlier this week that without widespread testing and a robust contact tracing plan in place, states that are re-opening risk a second wave of the virus. Although some improvements have been made, we lag the rest of the country in both areas. I don’t want our economy to just re-open, I want it to remain open. That will not happen if there is a second wave of the virus and we are forced to shut down again."

Dr. Bob England, the director of the Pima County Health Department, said earlier this week, with restaurants and bars reopening with little advance guidance, that it's "going to be a little bit like the Wild West."

"Just know that if you're vulnerable, if you're older, if you have underlying health conditions that put you at higher risk, then please, please, please hunker down for a while longer," England cautioned.

England said last week that the results of reopening so many establishments wouldn’t be known for weeks as test results tend to lag behind the actual spread of the virus.

“It will take a few weeks to know the impact of this so we won’t know until early June what all of this is doing to the epidemic curve,” England said in a daily briefing.

Other members of the medical community said Ducey’s move may have come soon and will result in greater spread of the virus. State Rep. Randy Friese, an emergency room doctor, warned last week that by relaxing so many standards so quickly, Ducey was risking losing all the progress that state has made in stemming the disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the Trump administration, told the U.S. Senate in testimony this week that states and cities should follow the guidelines set out by the CDC when allowing businesses to reopen. “It’s my concern that if some areas—cities, states, what have you—jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said. “The consequences could be really serious.”

In other COVID-related news:

• Starting on Friday, May 15, CVS Health will be operating three new drive-thru testing sites in the Tucson area as part of a nationwide response to COVID-19. The locations are at 3832 East Speedway, 8920 East Tanque Verde Road and 10650 North Oracle Road in Oro Valley.

Self-swab tests will be available to individuals meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, in addition to age guidelines. Patients must register in advance at beginning Friday, May 15 to schedule an appointment.

Patients will be required to stay in their cars and will be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions. A CVS employee will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Tests will be sent to third-party labs for processing and the results will be available in approximately three days. Testing will not take place inside any retail locations. 

• The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 this week to enact emergency health regulations related to the “best practices” strategies developed by the county’s Back To Business Task Force. They also eased restrictions on outdoor dining in an effort to allow restaurants to expand their seating area while allowing more space among diners inside. Republican Supervisors Steve Christy and Ally Miller voted against the new regulations, which include taking the temperature of all workers and anyone making deliveries to restaurants. Christy said the regulations were too burdensome for a sector that has already been hammered by the outbreak's fallout.

• Pima County Public Libraries will reopen on Monday, May 18, with limited services, including book pickup, computer use on a first-come, first-served basis, and printing, copying and fax services. The new open hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will still be precautions for coronavirus, including taking guests' temperatures before they enter the building, wearing face masks and maintaining six feet of physical distance. The library will also allow only a limited number of people in at a time, and guests will most likely have to wait in line to get in.

• COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath or a loss of taste and smell, 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. 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