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Sat, March 28

No Yavapai County coronavirus cases reported; patients await test results

Yavapai Regional Medical Center (Matthew Van Doren/Courier)

Yavapai Regional Medical Center (Matthew Van Doren/Courier)

The Yavapai Regional Medical Center isolated, and tested, two hospitalized patients in the last week as a precautionary screening for the COVID-19 coronavirus, Yavapai County health officials confirmed Wednesday.

Three other individuals were previously tested but found to be negative, they said.

As of Wednesday, Yavapai County has no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, said Yavapai County Community Health Services Epidemiologist Stephen Everett.

In the case of the five patients tested so far across Yavapai County, Everett said all of their risks were limited, yet their health providers were unable to pinpoint any other cause for their respiratory illnesses.

Patients exhibiting symptoms similar to flu and other respiratory ailments are likely candidates for a COVID-19 test if screenings for other illnesses turn up negative, Everett said. The testing likelihood accelerates if the person has traveled abroad, particularly places where they have been outbreaks, or is in contact with other high-risk individuals.

YRMC tests only its hospitalized patients. Others with symptoms must be tested through their private health providers.

Community Health Services tracks cases, but not patient tests. All of the tests are forwarded to the state Department of Health for an initial finding, and then any positive tests are forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for official confirmation.

“We appreciate the concern and anxiety that many people in our community have regarding COVID-19,” said Ken Boush, YRMC’s director of marketing and communications. YRMC has had no cases on either of its Prescott or Prescott Valley campuses. “We also appreciate the fact that unsubstantiated rumors do circulate via various social media communities.

“Yavapai County Community Health Services should be everybody’s primary source for information regarding COVID-19 in Yavapai County. Any official news regarding the virus will come from Yavapai County Community Health Services.

“We encourage everyone to remain calm and not to rely on social media rumors. We also remind everyone that we continue to work our way through a heavy flu season and many people have allergy and respiratory-related symptoms this time of year.”

Everett was clear that the hospital maintains isolation procedures year round for all types of contagious illnesses, particularly during flu season. The hospital is following the same protocols for this virus as they would for any other, he and YRMC officials affirmed.

Public apprehension happens to be acute right now because COVID-19 is such a high-profile illness right now with state, national and international leaders issuing emergency declarations — Gov. Doug Ducey did so for Arizona on Wednesday afternoon, Everett acknowledged. Rather than fuel people’s fears, Everett said he wants to inform and inspire responsible public behavior that limits the spread of this no-vaccine disease, particularly to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

The global tally is about 110,000 cases, 3,800 deaths. In the U.S., there are 539 confirmed cases in 34 states with 22 deaths. Arizona now has two confirmed cases from Maricopa County, and seven presumptive positive cases awaiting final results from Pima and Pinal counties.

Since coronavirus concerns have escalated over the past couple weeks, Everett said he fields no less than 50 calls a day from citizens, health care professionals and other local agencies concerned about protecting their constituency. Social media rumors are also fueling fear, he noted.

Everett emphasized his focus is to keep people informed while avoiding a public panic about what is a growing health scare. His department has followed the same practices for other global epidemics.

His department continues to emphasize minimizing spread with practical, personal hygiene and practices: regularly washing hands with hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds; limiting handshaking and too-close conversation; avoid ing sick people and staying home if feeling ill. Avoid big crowds and travel to places where there have been widespread outbreaks.

Asked about travel, including scheduled school field trips, Everett said he advises people avoid places where there are likely to be large crowds, particularly those that might attract an international audience. Foreign travel requires caution, not just for fear of catching the virus but of possible multi-day quarantines upon one’s return home, he said. No cruises, he advised.

Prescott High School and Bradshaw Mountain High School have a planned field trip this summer to Prescott’s Sister City in Zeitz, Germany.

Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Dan Streeter said he is not yet ready to pull the plug. Yet he is clear he and his colleagues will monitor the issue closely.

At this time, Germany is reporting about 2,000 cases and counting, Everett said.

Though things might improve, Everett said he fears “hopes are going to be dashed” for those anticipating such a trip this year.

“Go to Fry’s and buy some bratwurst,” Everett joked. “That’s probably as close to Germany as they’re going to get.”

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