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Tucson halts public meetings, asks events to cancel over coronavirus

The city of Tucson is halting all public meetings and asking that events with more than 50 attendees be postponed in response to concerns about COVID-19.

Tucson Water will suspend shutoffs and not charge late fees, Mayor Regina Romero said Thursday night.

All public meetings and city-sponsored gatherings are being called off, Romero said.

"Out of an abundance of precaution, I am recommending that events with an expected attendance of at least 50 individuals be postponed," she said. "The city will not issue special event permits with an expected attendance of 50 persons or more."

While the city is halting all events it controls, city officials don't have the authority to prohibit gatherings on private property which don't need a special event permit (which are generally required for large events in parks, street closings, etc.).

The city is suspending the meetings of all boards and commissions, and stopping all employee business travel outside Tucson.

City employees will be asked to work from home when possible.

"All city employees who handle in-person payments will be issued gloves for their protection and protection of the public. Electronic payments are encouraged for all city transactions, as cash payments may need to be suspended in the future," she said.

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"I want to stress that COVID-19 presents a serious public health risk to Tucson and our surrounding communities," Romero said. "As more testing becomes available, we should fully expect more cases to be confirmed. While most cases are mild, we need to be taking extra precaution around the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. "

"The sooner that we take decisive action, the better off our community will be," she said. "These changes are immediate and will last through the end of March, at which point we will re-examine our policies."

Earlier Thursday, Marana announced the cancellation of all town-sponsored public events.

Thursday night, the organizers of the Fourth Avenue Street Fair changed course and announced that the annual spring event would not be held.

Arizona health emergency declared

Wednesday afternoon, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared a "public health emergency" prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak, allowing the state to request federal funds and deal with medical price-gouging.

At least nine people have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus in Arizona, officials said Wednesday, with 32 more tests pending.

Related: University of Arizona to cancel in-person classes due to coronavirus

Two Pinal County cases were added to the tally on Wednesday, following Monday's announcement that there was a case in Pima County.

"While our state is not currently facing the number of cases we've seen in some other states, we are anticipating additional positive cases — and we're not taking any chances," Ducey said in announcing his emergency declaration. "Arizonans should not panic — our approach will be calm and steady."

Ducey also ordered insurance companies to cover out-of-network providers and cover 100 percent of the cost for coronavirus care. He also announced that nursing homes and elder care facilities will begin implementing new visitor policies and enhanced symptom checks for staff members and visitors.

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Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, downplayed suggestions that large gatherings be banned.

"At this time we are not recommending canceling mass gatherings in Arizona," Christ said. "So we are working right now with the CDC on brand-new community mitigation guidance that they just put out and we are not at a point where we would recommend those type of things, but we are constantly evaluating to see if those measures do take sense, but at this time we're not."

Single positive Pima County test

One Pima County resident has been "presumptively" diagnosed with COVID-19, officials said Monday afternoon. The patient, who had recently traveled to an area with "community spread," is "not severely ill" and is recovering at home.

"The patient is a resident of unincorporated Pima County. This individual is not severely ill, is currently recovering at home in isolation, and has been fully cooperative with public health monitoring," officials said.

Ducey's declaration "doesn't currently affect the County Health Department's response to the outbreak," county Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said Wednesday. "The emphasis on encouraging more telemedicine and the order requiring visitation restrictions at nursing homes and long-term care facilities are very positive actions by the governor and the county fully supports them."

As of Thursday morning, 115 people in Arizona have been tested for COVID-19 — the novel coronavirus that was first diagnosed in people late last year — with the two confirmed positive cases and seven "presumptive positive" cases the only ones in the state. Another 24 tests were pending results, and 82 people have been ruled out, officials said.

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Mayor Regina Romero

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Preventing coronavirus spread

From the Pima County Health Department:

If you have recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is circulating, and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have 2019 novel coronavirus, please stay home. Most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms. If you have mild symptoms, please do not seek medical care, but do stay home and practice social distancing from others in the household where possible. If you do have shortness of breath or more severe symptoms, please call your health care provider to get instructions before arriving.

The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, are to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.