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Thu, May 28

Leaders across Yavapai County plan coronavirus response
Focus on collaboration, cooperation, calm

Foreground David McAtee, the Yavapai County public information officer, in the background Board of Supervisors Chairman Craig Brown (left) and Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli (right). (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Foreground David McAtee, the Yavapai County public information officer, in the background Board of Supervisors Chairman Craig Brown (left) and Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli (right). (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Pragmatism mixed with optimism was how county, city, town and health leaders on Friday afternoon, March 20, managed the creation of a multi-agency coordination system (MACS) to cope with the arrival of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Yavapai County.

About 10 mayors, supervisors, tribal leaders, and the county’s top public health leader, were part of an almost two-hour closed-door session at the county administration building followed by a press conference to talk about how to offer unified messages to all Yavapai County communities. A similar group of elected officials in Cottonwood relied on technology to join in the session.

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Tents set up near the helipad at Yavapai Regional Medical Center for screening and testing of prospective patients. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

The goal of all was to figure out how best to offer up-to-date information related to public health, business operations and personal lifestyle management. The county’s Community Health Services was assigned to be the main contact with daily postings to its website — www.yavapai.us/CHS — at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Breaking news will be added as it is received.

All of the officials were crystal clear they want to offer facts rather than fuel speculation and fear during one of the scariest medical crises in modern history.

“This is a time when we all need each other,” said Community Health Services Director Leslie Horton, the county’s assigned coronavirus spokesperson.

FIRST CASE

Yavapai County’s first positive case was identified late Thursday afternoon in a Sedona resident who was tested in Coconino County.

The patient is a 72-year-old man who attended a construction symposium in Las Vegas and was somehow exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, health officials said. The man has had limited contacts with other people and has no symptoms, isolating at home, they said.

So what now?

INCREASED TESTING

Beyond reinforcing proper hygiene, social distancing, and state-required closings of restaurants and bars for other than pick-up and carry-out meals, Horton said her office is encouraging more medical providers to do the collection swabs required for testing at the area’s commercial laboratories, LabCorp and Sonora Quest. The labs are capable of processing large amounts of tests but they rely on doctors to prescribe and return them as they do not do specimen collection, Hortons said.

Those tests are then forwarded to the state Department of Health for confirmation. To date, Yavapai County has conducted 58 tests, 42 negative and 15 still pending. Statewide, as of Friday afternoon, there are 63 confirmed cases and 101 pending results.

One of the issues right now is a shortage of throat and nose swabs, Horton said. Doctors who do not feel equipped to collect specimens are being asked to donate swabs to those who are able to do them.

In Prescott, Yavapai Regional Medical Center continues to test hospitalized patients, and Thumb Butte Medical Center has advertised it is preparing to be able to test hundreds of potential patients. The Community Health Center is now offering limited tests, but to date they have been supplied only five test collect kits a day.

Horton noted a serious shortage of providers willing to test in the Verde Valley.

As test collection kits are requested more, and become more plentiful, Horton expects there will eventually be the ability to do on-demand testing that could assist with virus control. At this time, however, supplies are still limited enough that the hospitals and select primary care providers are restricted to testing the highest-risk patients, she said. High-risk is now defined as senior citizens older than 65 with fever, shortness of breath and other respiratory symptoms or other health problems; people who have traveled to outbreak areas or are in contact with those who have been to such places; emergency and essential service personnel who may be in contact with those infected with the virus, she said.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center has established outside tents on its campuses in Prescott and Prescott Valley where they can screen and test people for not just COVID-19 but also for flu and other respiratory ailments, Horton said.

STAYING SAFE

The key to minimizing the impact of this virus is to keep those with symptoms away from people without symptoms, and the best way to do that is to minimize crowd contact, Horton said. The bulk of people infected with this virus do not require medical intervention, and so if someone feels sick they need to self-quarantine and stay in telephone contact with a medical provider. Employers need to be flexible about allowing their staff to stay home if they are feeling ill, she said.

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli assured city and county resources are being coordinated to assist the business community as it copes with the economic impacts of this virus. The federal Small Business Administration has announced loans and financial assistance to impacted areas, he said. City and Chamber of Commerce leaders are also coordinating assistance.

“We’re going to get through this,” Mengarelli said, applauding the generous and committed spirit of those in Prescott and its surrounding communities.

County Supervisors Chairman Craig Brown concurred.

CARING FOR OTHERS

Part of this crisis comes from what is unknown, and rather than panic, or buying more than one needs for one’s own pantry, Brown advised people to practice self-control and neighborliness. “If everybody just treats each other the way they wish to be treated, we’ll all be fine,” he concluded.

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