NAVAJO & APACHE COUNTY — On Wednesday evening, Navajo County issued a press release confirming the first case of COVID-19 outside of the Navajo Nation Reservation.
The patient was diagnosed at the Little Colorado Medical Center in Winslow.
“The individual was evaluated and tested within the respiratory clinic at the Little Colorado Physician Office in accordance with customary isolation procedures. The patient is a resident of Navajo County and is self-quarantining in accordance with CDC guidelines at their home,” the release stated.
County health nurses are reaching out to persons who may have had contact with this individual.
“Our Infectious Disease Nurses are working on sometimes dozens of cases every day. They are working 12+ hours a day and on-call 24/7. We greatly appreciate how hard they are working to keep us safe,” Assistant County Manager Bryan Layton told the Independent.
“If you have not been contacted by public health officials, your risk of exposure to this case is extremely limited,” the press release emphasized.
COVID-19 now widespread across the state
Information about the new case came on top of a press release issued Thursday morning that COVID-19 is now considered widespread across the state.
“The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has updated the community transmission level of COVID-19 in Arizona to widespread. Widespread transmission indicates that cases have been confirmed in twelve or more counties throughout the state. As of today, Arizona has confirmed 508 cases in 13 counties. There have been 8 deaths reported due to COVID-19,” the release stated.
“Given widespread transmission, all Arizonans should expect that COVID-19 is circulating in their community,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS Director, in the release. “COVID-19 is a serious disease that is highly contagious and can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions. Protecting those at highest risk of complications and ensuring that our healthcare system is prepared to deal with a surge in cases is our highest priority. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect themselves and their family from this disease,” she stated.
Navajo Nation Reservation
An outbreak of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation Reservation has been quickly escalating, with 49 cases identified on Wednesday in a Facebook posting by the Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and vice president Myron Lizer. A number of the cases have been linked to a church revival in the small community of Chilchinbeto, in northeast Navajo County, on the Navajo Nation Reservation.
The Arizona Department of Health Services identified nine cases in Apache County on Thursday. Apache County Public Health Director Preston Raban said that as far as he is aware all of these cases are on the Navajo Nation Reservation.
“We have been working hand-in-hand with the Navajo Nation … and we’re working together to see to it that we are able to get … resources to those who need them most,” Raban said in a Thurday email.
for Summit patients
In two video interviews this week with Diana Anderson, infection preventionist for Summit Healthcare in Show Low, Anderson noted that Summit has about 28 tests for COVID-19 from patients that were still being processed. No patients at Summit Healthcare have yet been diagnosed with the infection.
“I do have quite a few that are pending. We have run into a little barrier in our testing in that initially, up until (March 19), all the tests we sent … went to a processing lab in California. Unfortunately, they were way far behind. They have opened a new lab in Tempe, and that is speeding it up a little. But I still have patients, unfortunately, that have been waiting a week for their results to come back. That is heartbreaking for these patients and I wish there was something we could do to speed it up. But I guess nobody has ever been through this kind of a pandemic before, we’re all doing the best we can do,” Anderson said in an interview on Show Low TV with Show Low Mayor and District IV County Supervisor Daryl Seymore. She advised that Summit was treating these patients as “presumptive positive” in order to prevent possible spread of the disease.
Increasing testing availability is something that both public health officials and residents want to see. North Country Healthcare stated in a press release Wednesday that they have used a drive-thru testing model at their main clinic in Flagstaff recently, and they are preparing to roll-out drive-thru testing at their clinics in other counties as well, including ones in Navajo and Apache counties. Their press release, however, did not state when this testing would begin.
“After testing out this model in Flagstaff, North Country HealthCare will work with other county or hospital partners to offer similar drive-up testing sites, based on test availability and screening criteria, throughout their service region of Apache, Coconino, Gila, Mohave and Navajo Counties. Each site will have parking spots, where patients can wait in their vehicles for the provider to perform the exam,” the press release stated.
The Independent reached out to North Country Healthcare for more information, but they said they were not prepared to offer any more specifics at this time.
In a video interview posted on the Summit Healthcare webpage, Dr. Simran Galhotra, director of the Intensive Care Unit at Summit, said that he is prepared for COVID-19 patients. He said that he has 12 ventilators available, and “24 machines that can support patients who need it,” although he did not explain what that meant. Summit has been posting daily video updates on the COVID-19 situation at their facility https://summithealthcare.net/summit-healthcare-regional-medical-center-restrict-visitors-as-covid-19-coronavirus-precaution
Summit’s hospital has 101 licensed beds, according to their website. “We’ve set up some additional negative airflow rooms. That is a medical necessity for taking care of these patients, so we’ve increased our beds by six, on top of the ones we already have,” Anderson said in the Show Low TV interview. She also said Summit has enough medical supplies for now, although they have put out a request for volunteers to sew cloth face masks for medical personnel, something hospitals in other parts of the country are doing in order to stretch their limited supplies.
Navajo County received some supplies from a disbursement from the federal Strategic Stockpile that arrived in Arizona this week.
“We certainly appreciate that these supplies were delivered, but the amount the county received falls way, way, short of what is needed,” said Navajo County Assistant Manager Bryan Layton in an email to the Independent on Wednesday night. “Navajo County surveyed health providers regarding their needs and is in the process of distributing the allocation,” Layton added.