Pima County Official Admits No COVID-19 Data On How Many Actually Exposed


Pima County
Pima County administration building

It’s become a daily ritual for some, checking out the new COVID-19 statistics every morning.

In Arizona, 64 people have died as of Sunday out of 2,269 confirmed cases, with nearly all of the test results performed at private labs, not the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory.

Meanwhile, in Pima County the confirmed COVID-19 death toll stood at 13 out of 372 total cases as of 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Of those, 81 have been hospitalized at some point, with 28 of those patients requiring ICU treatment.

And while Pima County’s public health officials can tell us 62 percent of the confirmed cases to date involved patients ages 45 and older, and that only one person under the age of 45 has died, what they can’t tell us is how many residents have actually contracted the virus, or even how many have been tested that haven’t triggered a result yet.

In fact, across Arizona less than 30,000 of the state’s 7.1 Million residents have been tested for COVID-19. And while 93 percent of that sample reported negative results, the lack of big picture data of how much killer virus is around us was acknowledged last week by Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County’s Health Director and Chief Medical Officer.

Read more by Terri Jo Neff >>

Garcia made the admission April 2 at a weekly COVID-19 meeting with the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors were advised that medical experts across the country expect the number of people needing intensive medical intervention to sharply increase in the next few weeks, despite stay-at-home orders in many states. The same is true in Pima County, he said.

However, Garcia says the resources for ICU, emergency room, and inpatient beds are adequate throughout the county, although ensuring adequate medical supplies is still a concern.  Health department staff are conducting daily conference calls with the various medical facilities to better understand the situation at each facility, Garcia told the board.

During the same meeting, the supervisors were also advised that county officials have placed an order with company that normally produces artificial hearts but has recently repurposed its manufacturing operation to develop much needed multi-use sanitizer products.

There have also been news reports that a Tucson-based private laboratory has developed a new test for COVID-19, while another lab believes they have an easy-to-administer blood test which can confirm whether a COVID-19 infectee has recovered. However, questions remain about the accuracy of the tests, given the short time available for development and quality review.

Concerns are also being expressed by medical professionals about the lasting effectiveness of possible treatments for COVID-19, including uncertainty with long-term side effects.

Most of the coronavirus data listed on the Pima County Health Department’s website links directly to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) so that the most up-to-date information is available to residents and medical professionals. For instance, when the CDC revised its evaluation and testing protocols three times in March, the updated information was immediately accessible on the county’s website.

According to the CDC, preliminary totals as of Sunday, April 5 showed nearly 305,000 confirmed cases with the 50 states, plus Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, Northern Marianas, US Virgin Islands, and Guam. Of those, there have been 7,616 reported deaths.