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Tune in here for live updates on coronavirus in Arizona.

The Arizona Department of Health Services announced Friday a third person in the state has tested positive for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. 

The patient, a woman in her 40s, tested positive at the state lab and is recovering in the hospital. Her sample is pending confirmatory testing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. 

ADHS said the case was the state’s first being investigated as an instance of community spread, meaning the source of the infection is unknown. The previous two cases in the state were classified as “travel-related.” 

“The COVID-19 outbreak is rapidly evolving and based on events in other states, we expect additional cases and community spread in Arizona,” Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director, said in a press release

“Keeping Arizonans safe and healthy is our number one priority and we are confident the public health system in Arizona is well prepared to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Feds Give Arizona $500K

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will give Arizona $500,000 to support COVID-19 response, the state’s Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced Wednesday. 

“The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving rapidly and this additional funding from the federal government will help public health agencies in Arizona to better respond to the outbreak,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director, in a press release. “We are still in the process of evaluating the best use of this initial funding and will work with our local health partners to determine how the funds will have the most effective impact in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

The funding comes the same day the U.S. House passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion measure to fight the disease. The measure is expected to pass the Senate on Thursday and signed by President Donald Trump shortly after. 

According to The Associated Press, $3 billion will go toward the development of a vaccine, while $2 billion will be distributed to states and local governments. Smaller portions of the measure will go toward overseas efforts, response in “hot spots” like Washington state, medical supplies, community health centers, and Medicare coverage for remote “telehealth” consultations.

Stores Are Facing Shortages

Pharmacies are struggling to keep up with demand for hand sanitizer and face masks. A look in at a CVS store in Phoenix on Tuesday showed empty shelves.  

“We are working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for hand sanitizers and masks,” a spokesman for the company told The Copper Courier. “This demand may cause temporary shortages for these products at some store locations and we re-supply those stores as quickly as possible.”

Walgreens is also having difficulty keeping products available.

“We have been seeing greater demand for certain products, such as face masks and hand sanitizers, in many of our stores,” a spokeswoman for the pharmacy told The Copper Courier. “We’re continually and closely monitoring the situation, and continue to work with our supplier partners to best meet the needs of our customers.”

Customers are also running into problems when shopping online. Websites for CVS and Walgreens show many of those products out of stock. 

The high demand for hygiene items led to Amazon deleting more than 1 million items in its online store last week due to price gouging and false claims about products’ ability to fight the coronavirus, according to Reuters

The purge came after Wired reported some sellers were inflating the cost of health-related items and their shipping. For example, some face masks were listed for four-to-five times their regular price. 

But as of Tuesday, some items were still listed far above normal prices. A pack of four 1,200-milliliter bottles of Purell hand sanitizer refills for automatic dispensers was listed for $348.

A review on the seller’s page complained the company was taking advantage of people. “Outrageously expensive, but needed for a patient waiting room. Delivered quickly & well packaged, but priced Very high due to Coronvirus [sic] scare. But, we had to have the product to protect clients/patients,” the reviewer wrote. 

A single eight-ounce bottle of Purell hand sanitizer, which usually sells for $2.99 at retailers like Target, was listed as $30-$40.

Arizona Sees Its Second Case

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced Tuesday that a new round of testing for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has resulted in one “presumptive positive” result. This brings the state’s total count of cases to two.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “A presumptive positive case has tested positive by a public health laboratory and is pending confirmatory testing at CDC. States are reporting presumptive positive cases independently; their case counts are the most up-to-date.”

The agency has tested a total of 32 people, with six of those still pending. Twenty-four people tested negative. There has only been one confirmed case in Arizona so far – an Arizona State University student who has since been cleared from isolation.

ADHS said the new case is a man in his 20s who is recovering at home. He had been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus outside of Arizona.

“With the case counts increasing around the country, it is no surprise that we have another case here in Maricopa County,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control for Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in a press release. “The good news is that this individual is in stable condition and is expected to have a full recovery, as are most people who become infected with this disease.” 

Officials are interviewing people who have been in contact with the new case and asking them to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

“As far as risk to the public, we are still doing the case investigation of this individual, however, because we know when and where this individual was exposed, this does not represent community spread,” Dr. Sunenshine said. 

ADHS will update its website each morning at 9 a.m. with the latest information on coronavirus, including the number of people tested, the number of confirmed cases, and any deaths that occur.

Gallego Wants Tests Covered By Medicaid

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill that would require Medicaid to cover testing and treatment for coronavirus and any other future diseases that are declared a national emergency. 

“Coronavirus could spread more quickly if people avoid testing & treatment due to astronomical medical costs,” Gallego tweeted. 

Under his plan, all Americans would qualify for emergency Medicaid to cover the costs, even if they have other or no insurance. 

Schools Preparing For Outbreak

Arizona is not yet seeing school closures due to COVID-19, but the state’s Department of Education is asking officials to have plans in place. 

According to ABC 15, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman sent a letter to schools Monday asking them to encourage parents to look at alternatives for child care.

She also recommended officials consider how children who rely on school meals will have access to food if schools close. 

A spokeswoman for Scottsdale Unified School District told ABC 15 there is now a frequently asked questions website for parents. Staff have also stocked classrooms with hand sanitizer and are disinfecting surfaces more frequently. 

ADHS also sent out a survey to emergency medical service responders on Monday, asking them to submit information about their capabilities to the health department. 

The agency will compile that information and use it “to assess regional needs” as the virus spreads, according to an email. 

For organizations seeking more information on how to prepare, ADHS is hosting a series of webinars from Wednesday through Friday. The information sessions are available for groups including law enforcement agencies, businesses, colleges and universities, long-term care providers, EMS services, K-12 schools and childcare providers, healthcare facilities, and more.

Arizona Begins Same-day Testing

Gov. Doug Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, the head of the ADHS, held a press conference Monday afternoon to address questions about COVID-19. 

Christ said the state had begun to test its own samples and could provide same-day or next-day results. She said their labs have the capability to test 450 specimens per day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean results for 450 people – one patient can produce multiple specimens (ex. a throat swab and nose swab). 

The state has tested 26 people for the disease, Christ said. One of those cases was confirmed, while 24 came back negative. One result is still pending. 

She said the state is currently monitoring about 250 people returning from travel for signs of the coronavirus.

Christ said she is trying to keep things normal for her family and is not stockpiling food, water, or items like hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes. 

She said while she expects the number of confirmed cases to rise soon in Arizona, that’s not a reason to panic.

“The more we’re looking for cases, the more we’re going to find,” she said.