Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab.

Local health officials are still struggling to speed up COVID-19 testing, which has delayed plans for Banner Health to set up drive-thru testing sites.

Dr. Bob England, the interim Pima County Health Director, says the problem isn't with the labs anymore. Instead, it's because the equipment that's needed to take samples is in short supply.

"Now the healthcare community is in short supply of the test kits they need to take the samples—those little plastic swabs," England said in today's video briefing on the outbreak. "We saw this coming a couple of weeks ago. We submitted our own order. Right before we got it, it was canceled out from under us. We've been working with researchers at the U of A to make reagents, to get the plastic tubes, to get the right kinds of swabs. We can't quite use them yet. We still have to double-check sterility and we have to get the right kinds of swabs for some of the kits."

England added that when Banner Health's drive-up testing program launches, it will be by appointment only rather than open to anyone who wants a test.

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A total of 401 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Arizona as of Wednesday, March 25, according to the morning report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

That's a jump of 75 from yesterday's 326.

There are 49 confirmed cases in Pima County. While COVID-19 is particularly dangerous to people 60 and older, the majority of confirmed cases in Pima County are under 66. The Pima County Health Department reports that confirmed cases include 18 people between 18 and 40 years old; 15 between 41 and 65 years old; and 12 people 66 years and older. There have been no confirmed cases of juveniles under 18.

The virus has killed six people in Arizona, including a Pima County woman in her 50s who had underlying health conditions.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 251, with 52 more cases being reported than yesterday.

Health and government officials have urged the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people. They warn that the extremely contagious virus is rapidly spreading in the community. Symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear, so people can pass COVID-19 without realizing they have been infected with it. Some people remain entirely asymptotic but are carriers.

As COVID-19 has spread, local and state officials limited restaurants to take-out and delivery services in counties where cases of the virus have been confirmed. Here’s a partial list of restaurants that are offering take-out and delivery services.

In the face of the spreading virus, Gov. Doug Ducey yesterday ordered a halt to evictions for 120 days. Evictions in Pima County had been on hold since last week when county constables said they would no longer deliver eviction orders over concerns over putting people on the street in the midst of a pandemic.

Ducey has also shuttered schools through April 10. In addition, he's ordered bars, gyms and theaters to be closed in any county with confirmed COVID-19 cases, halted all elective surgery to keep hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and activated the National Guard to assist in grocery stores as Arizonans clear the shelves.

COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include headache, fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. However, some cases of the virus are entirely asymptomatic. Practices to avoid infection include social distancing (of at least six feet), washing your hands, avoiding unnecessary trips and not touching your face. COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on stainless steel and plastic surfaces up to three days. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, speak with a healthcare provider for medical advice.

According to the CDC, people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Stay at home and avoid public transportation, but stay in touch with your doctor. If you do leave your home, wear a facemask and clean your hands often. If you develop more severe symptoms (persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips) get medical attention immediately. Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

Have you caught COVID-19? Are you feeling ill? Is your small business struggling to make it? Have you lost your job as a result of the outbreak? Are you struggling to manage your kids while schools are closed? Tell us your COVID-19 stories. Send an email to tucsoneditor@tucsonlocalmedia.com.

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