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Coronavirus 'community spread' in Arizona changing how health officials fight virus

Posted at 7:35 PM, Mar 06, 2020

PHOENIX — Arizona now has two active, confirmed cases of coronavirus, including one that state health officials are calling the first case of "community spread," meaning health officials don't know how or when the latest patient contracted it.

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In a Friday press conference, health officials said this will change how the state approaches the fight against COVID-19.

Instead of trying to prevent the virus, public health agencies will now focus on slowing the spread.

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The latest patient is a woman in her 40s who lives in Pinal County, but works in Maricopa County in the healthcare field.

County health directors would not reveal when she was diagnosed or who she may have come in contact with, but say they are reaching out to those individuals directly.

The second active case is a man in his 20s. He has mild symptoms and is believed to have contracted the virus as a result of a trip to Europe.

He is being asked to stay home until he is cleared by state health officials.

Currently, 22 people in Arizona are being asked to stay home, including five who are showing symptoms.

See the full press conference with Maricopa and Pinal County officials in the player below.

Earlier Friday, Sen. Martha McSally toured the state lab where COVID-19 testing is done.

"We are now in a place, because of the dynamics of the global spread and the lack of a specific treatment and vaccine, that we just need to be using basic mitigation techniques," McSally said.

Public health officials stress hand washing, not touching your face, and staying home when you are sick are key tactics to avoid spreading the virus.

"But it doesn't mean that everybody needs to stay home, not go to work, not go on spring break, not live their lives. That definitely is too much of a panic reaction that could have negative implications," McSally noted.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said now that we have community spread, we could see 28,000 cases of coronavirus in months, as the virus spreads much like the flu.

State testing will continue for anyone showing symptoms who has traveled to high risk countries, where COVID-19 is widespread. It will also be extended to those with symptoms who have had contact with a coronavirus patient.

New on Friday, testing will also be expanded to include people who are hospitalized with respiratory issues but have tested negative for the flu and other common illnesses.

Private companies will also have tests available in the coming days.