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2nd Arizona coronavirus death; cases top 150

17 COVID-19 patients in Pima County

Two people have died and more than 150 Arizonans have now tested positive for COVID-19, as reported cases grew 50 percent overnight. 17 Pima County residents have been diagnosed.

At least two people have died in the state from COVID-19, both Maricopa County residents.

The Navajo Nation has locked down after the number of cases grew, with a "state at home order" requiring all non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home and isolated. The 26 cases on the reservation have not been included in the totals kept by Arizona officials.

The Arizona death reported Sunday was of a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions, officials said.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is "in the process of notifying close contacts of this person and will be asking them to monitor for symptoms."

Sunday morning, state officials reported that 152 patients in Arizona had tested positive. Another 26 patients live on the Navajo Nation and have not been included in the daily tallies released by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The entire reservation has been placed on lockdown by tribal leaders.

The outbreak has reached at least 12 of Arizona's 15 counties.

Seventeen Pima County residents have been diagnosed, and the first cases were reported in Santa Cruz and Cochise counties on Friday.

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Of the Pima residents, 10 are men and 7 are women, and nearly half are 60 or older. Five are currently hospitalized, health officials said late Sunday afternoon.

The earlier COVID-19 death was reported Friday: a Maricopa County man in his 50s who had "underlying health conditions," state officials said.

The man was an employee of the Phoenix Aviation Department, City Manager Ed Zuercher said in a letter sent to Phoenix city workers.

"While every effort is made in normal situations to protect the privacy of our employees, we made the decision to inform all of you about this death because of the health emergency our world is facing," he wrote. "We will not discuss the name of the employee or any other details."

The man who died was a staffer in a remote office who had minimal public interaction at the airport's terminals, Zuercher wrote.

Health officials have repeatedly said that the number of reported cases is just a fraction of the number of Arizonans who are carrying COVID-19. With limited testing capacity still, only the sickest people with known possible coronavirus contacts have been being tested.

Many people carry the virus without developing symptoms for days, but still spread it to others they come in contact with — which is why doctors and public health experts repeatedly emphasize that people should remain at home as much as possible to help contain the outbreak.

Cochise County reported its first positive test result on Friday afternoon.

A case was also diagnosed in Santa Cruz County, and one in Yuma County was announced Friday, the first in each county.

Most of those cases have been diagnosed with tests at private commercial laboratories — 117 of the positive tests have been at private labs, with 37 positives determined at the Arizona state lab.

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Two COVD-19 patients who had been hospitalized in Tucson have been released, Pima County Health Department officials said Friday. They would not provide details on which of the earlier patients were cleared to leave the hospital.

The number of cases on the Navajo Nation jumped from 14 to 26 overnight, with President Jonathan Nez issuing a lockdown order.

Navajo officials said the majority of the cases on the reservation, which extends across state lines into New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, involve patients who reported their symptoms to the clinic in Kayenta, Ariz., with others treated in Chinle, Ariz., and Shiprock, N.M.

Earlier, a Diné community of Chilchinbeto, Ariz., just south of Kayenta, has been quarantined after at least 7 cases were diagnosed there, Navajo officials said. Residents have been instructed to self-quarantine, with anyone with symptoms told to self-isolate. Tribal police have set up checkpoints to discourage travel on the vast, remote reservation.

Cases up 50% overnight

The number of known cases grew overnight, up from 104, as more tests are being run after weeks of limited access. There are now 152 total cases listed by Arizona officials, not including the Navajo numbers, with officials expecting many more to be found.

Thursday, Arizona officials had tallied 44 cases, with a jump to 79 on Friday and 104 cases by Saturday.

Just 408 people in total have been tested by the Arizona Public Health Laboratory, while private labs coming online are not reporting the total number of tests to state officials. 

Saturday, the state lab had tested 394 people since the beginning of the outbreak. Friday, the state lab reported having tested 343 total, up from 331 the day before. Prior to Tuesday, the state lab had tested 221 patients suspected of carrying the virus.

The state lab has now ruled out 282 people with negative tests.

There are 122 pending tests at the state lab, as of Sunday morning.

Back on last Sunday, just 183 people had been tested, with 12 positive cases and 50 pending tests.

One of the Pima County cases is a patient at the Tucson VA hospital, who was diagnosed on March 14 and is still be treated in isolation by the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.

Each of the Pima County patients has been older than 50, with no link identified between them, officials said Friday.

Sunday, officials said that of the 17 patients here, 9 were between 18 and 59, with 8 aged 60 and older. None were younger than 18.

Five of those patients were currently hospitalized, officials said Sunday. Of the 17, 10 were men and 7 were women.

More specific demographic information was not released. Earlier, local officials provided more precise details about each case:

Friday's case was:

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  • A female in her 60s who is isolating and not hospitalized

The two local cases announced Thursday were:

  • A female in her 50s who is hospitalized
  • A male in his 50s who is isolating and not hospitalized

The earlier cases were:

  • A male in his 80s who has recovered
  • A male in his 50s who is hospitalized
  • A male in his 70s who is hospitalized
  • A male in his 60s who is hospitalized
  • A female in her 60s who is isolating and not hospitalized

'Serious disease'

"COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions," ADHS Director Cara Christ said on Friday. "We expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and there could be more deaths. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect you and your family from this disease."

The best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • 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.

COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. For people with mild illness, individuals are asked to stay home, drink plenty of fluids and get rest. For people with more severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, individuals are advised to seek healthcare.

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