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County Health Director Answers Latest Questions

Written by The Bee

April 17, 2020

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MOHAVE COUNTY, AZ (April 17, 2020)–Since the COVID-19 issue began, Mohave County Health Director Denise Burley has been receiving questions from the general public and the media on a wide range of topics regarding the disease.  Here are some recent ones and her direct answers:

Q-The health department has received phone calls about non-essential businesses being open and violating the Governor’s Order. What kind of businesses are these? Are those complaints legitimate?

A-The vast majority of businesses are complying with the Governor’s Executive Order, and the recent additional clarification on what is essential provided by the governor’s office has been helpful. There continues to be some misinterpretation of the Order, and the Mohave County Department of Public Health Environmental Health team and local and county law enforcement are working with businesses that have questions about the Order to better ensure compliance and public safety.

Q-The University of Arizona recently announced it would provide 250,000 blood tests for health care personnel and first responders. Do you know how those tests will be distributed, and how many Mohave County expects to get?

A-The University of Arizona has not released details about how the kits will be distributed, the number Mohave County will receive, or when distribution will begin. I would suggest contacting the University of Arizona for more details.

Q- Will that be enough to test all healthcare employees in the county? What advantages would these blood tests provide in the fight against coronavirus?-

 A.-Antibody tests could indicate individuals who have had the illness at some point but never received official confirmation of infection, and those who have had mild or asymptomatic (symptom-free) infection.  COVID-19 is a new illness, and there is still much to be learned about it.  Antibody testing is often an important tool in infectious disease medicine and public health.

With some diseases, antibody testing is used to diagnose illness in people who are sick with a specific disease.  Some antibody testing can identify people who were exposed to a disease, but never developed any symptoms.  And in some circumstances, antibodies in a person’s blood can serve as an indicator that the person is immune to a disease.

Although we are hopeful that COVID-19 antibody testing will one day be a reliable, readily available, and affordable tool in our fight against COVID-19, we have not yet definitively reached this point.  At present, the utility and reliability of these new antibody tests are not known.  Because of these considerations and until additional clinical studies are conducted, we are not recommending the use of COVID-19 serologic tests to diagnose infection or immunity at this time.

Q- There is a local company, Destination Hydration, advertising antibody tests for $100. Would you recommend people get blood tests on their own? Is there a particular demographic for which such tests might be especially useful?

A-We are not recommending the use of COVID-19 serologic tests to diagnose infection or immunity at this time.

Q- Have there been any talks at the state level of expanding antibody testing programs to the general population at some point?

There has been very little conversation to date about expansion of testing to the general public. This could change when the reliability of testing improves, and those antibody tests become more available, but initial testing efforts will focus on health professionals and first responders.

Q- Is the Mohave County Department of Public Health monitoring the status of Needles, California and Laughlin, Nevada as well? Have there been discussions about limiting vehicle traffic or visitors in any way?

 A-The Mohave County department of Public Health is monitoring COVID-19 activity in Needles and Laughlin. Based on information found on the San Bernardino web page, as of April 15, 2020, there are no confirmed cases in Needles, CA. The Southern Nevada Health District website indicates that as of April 15th, there are fewer than 5 cases in the Laughlin area.

There are many reasons to continue to allow travel between our border communities. Some examples include the fact that residents who live in the Needles or Laughlin areas may receive care at an Arizona hospital or healthcare provider office, need access to food, medicine, and other essential supplies that may not be available in their community, and may work at a business considered an essential service in the Needles or Laughlin area.

Q.-Is Public Health notified when a COVID-19 positive case is released from the hospital to return home and self-isolate?

A.-Yes, and MCDPH Nursing staff follows-up with the patient to provide guidance and support for isolation, quarantine of household contacts and close contacts, and monitors the patient and any contacts during isolation and quarantine.

Q.-What is the process for monitoring a positive case?

A.-The patient is contacted via phone several times during the course of the isolation period. Monitoring involves assessment of symptoms, including the onset and resolution.

Q.- What is considered a close contact? What is the frequency of follow up with close contacts?

A.-A close contact include (but may not be limited to) household members (individuals who live in the same home), intimate partners, co-workers, and others who may have spent a prolonged period of time (approximately 10 minutes) within 6 feet of the case. Follow-up consists of several phone calls to the contacts during the individual’s quarantine period.

Q.-What is the guidance for a close contact?

A.-Quarantine for 14 days from last exposure and monitor for symptoms.

Q.-Does the test identify the strain of COVID-19?

 A-The current test is generic and does not test for specific strains. The lab reports indicate detection of the SARS-CoV-2.

Q.-How is a person informed that they are recovered and can discontinue self-isolation?

A.-MCDPH Nurses cannot determine if a person has “recovered”, but based on time since onset of symptoms and resolution of symptoms, can recommend the end of the isolation period; retesting to obtain a negative result is not recommended. The Arizona Department of Health Services is working to define “recovery” and will then determine how the information can be reported on their web page.

  1. Is it safe to volunteer for anything at this time?

A.-In Governor Ducey’s declaration, he stated individuals “shall limit their time away from their place of residence or property, except…to volunteer… in essential functions” (https://www.azdhs.gov/documents/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiology/novel-coronavirus/eo-stay-home-stay-healthy-stay-connected.pdf).  In this declaration, he also encouraged individuals to help their communities by participating in volunteer activities. However, if someone chooses to volunteer, it is important to ensure physical distance guidance is followed and to take all other necessary precautions to decrease the spread of COVID-19. The precautionary steps include hand washing, avoid touching the face, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, wearing cloth masks, and staying home when sick.

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