Maricopa County Health Director on planned PTO with family amid COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 6:55 AM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-14 11:17:53-04

PHOENIX — ABC15 has learned that Maricopa County's Public Health Director is on planned paid time off with her family, but is staying in frequent communication with staff, we're told.

In a statement to ABC15, a spokesperson said, Marcy Flanagan is participating in all aspects of the response to the outbreak, "regardless of whether she is sitting in her office at any point in time, Director Flanagan continues to be intimately involved with this response as well as continuing to run operations for the rest of the health department."

ABC15 has been asking for more information on the latest confirmed coronavirus case in Maricopa County that has left a 90-year-old man in stable condition, at last check.

ABC15 has asked repeated questions like: what city was this person in, was he in an in-patient or out-patient facility.

A spokesperson for the county's health department replies with basic answers, like: We are not releasing what city the case was in. With community spread, people are not at more or less risk in one area than any other, and we want people all across Maricopa County to be aware of safety precautions they should be taking.

This includes:

  • 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 throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Earlier this week, ABC15 confirmed that Maricopa County Health was working with a 'facility' on approved cleaning procedures, but would not indicate what type of facility.

A spokesperson with the county replied by email: Because we have community spread, we all have to respond with the appropriate precautions (as mentioned above). As with any public health investigation of a communicable disease, we work with the individual to find out all the places they have gone and all the people they were in close contact with (per the CDC, “close contact” means within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes). We then reach out to individuals who are identified as having been exposed and work with facilities on proper precautions for cleaning, staff, and more.

Arizona's Director of Health Services has referred case questions about an individual to the individual counties. But, after repeated requests with indirect answers, ABC15 went to speak with Director Flanagan at her office in Phoenix. However, a person on the county's staff, told ABC15 that she was out of town, at meetings.

On Friday morning ABC15 reached out to the county's health department to see if Flanagan was back in town, and asked where she was.

We were told by her staff, they had to check.

Late Friday evening, ABC15 received an email from the county health department about Flanagan's planned PTO with her family:

This outbreak is being managed under the Incident Command Structure (ICS). Our Incident Commander and spokesperson is Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine. Director Flanagan holds a policy role under ICS. This means she is responsible for working with state and county decision makers on all policy decisions related to this outbreak. Dr. Sunenshine is our designated spokesperson on this response and she is our person who is sharing information with the media. Regardless of whether she is sitting in her office at any point in time, Director Flanagan continues to be intimately involved with this response as well as continuing to run operations for the rest of the health department. Director Flanagan did take a few days of planned PTO this week to spend time with her family and while on PTO has been in frequent communication with Dr. Sunenshine and staff. While on PTO, Director Flanagan has continued to participate in all aspects of the response and we expect her back in the office on Monday.

Maricopa County Public Health Director Marcy Flanagan