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  • Data shines light on early cases of COVID-19 in Pima County

    Apr 25, 2020 | Read More News
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    Data released by the Pima County Health Department provides a clearer picture of the coronavirus outbreak in our community. Similar to jurisdictions throughout the United States, data shows the vulnerability that the residents and staff of long-term care and other congregate living facilities face. 

    For all cases since the first in Pima County in early March, through those reported as of Thursday, April 23, cases among residents and healthcare workers in congregate settings made up 27 percent of cases, 43 percent of hospitalizations, and 53 percent of deaths county-wide. The table at right also shows the separation of these cases by residents versus staff.
    Chart
    Since the first long-term care related cluster was identified by disease investigators in late March, Pima County Health Department has taken action to help facilities protect their residents and staff both before and after a case in a facility is identified. 

    “Facilities are assigned to a team of public health nurses and disease investigators dedicated specifically to providing guidance, education and resources to staff and decision makers,” said Dr. Bob England, Health Department Director. “The largest part of our investigation and outreach response since the very beginning has been to help our partners quickly identify and respond to cases among their residents and staff.”   

    When the team identifies a case of COVID-19 in a facility, they work with that facility’s leadership to implement customized strategies for separating positive cases, increasing infection control practices, and making testing more available to staff and residents. The Health Department has also prioritized long-term care partners for the personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing supplies being distributed by the County, and holds regular coordination calls with representatives from facilities to answer questions and identify resource needs.

    There is widespread transmission of COVID-19 in our community, but long-term care settings face unique challenges that are difficult to avoid. “Once the virus gets in, it can be extremely difficult to keep it from spreading," said England. "By nature of the work they do, staff members and residents come into close contact with one another multiple times per day, increasing the risks for both. These healthcare workers are heroically dedicated to their residents and we are dedicated to supporting these workers with every resource we have.”

    While facilities continue to restrict visitors, there are things people can do if they have someone they care about living in a long-term care settings:
    • Check-in with your loved-one often via phone or video chat, if available. Ask how they are doing mentally and emotionally.
    • Find out how the facility is helping residents stay connected to family and other loved ones – e.g., assistance making phone calls or video chats, setting regular schedules for outside interaction.
    • Make sure you know how the facility communicates important information to residents and families.
    • Understand the best way to get updates on your loved one’s well-being from their healthcare providers. As more care is provided virtually, make sure you know how to stay informed.
    Facilities are doing their best to meet the many challenges of this outbreak. To learn more about what they are doing, check their website, social media, newsletters, or other ways they may be sharing information about the actions they are taking.