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Top health official discusses COVID-19’s ‘widespread’ status in Arizona

PHOENIX — Following La Paz County’s first two reported cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, Arizona’s community spread was upgraded from a moderate to widespread classification by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“Widespread is the highest level,” Jessica Rigler, assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. 

The change from moderate to widespread was implemented once Arizona had confirmed coronavirus cases in 13 of the state’s 15 counties, which was achieved with La Paz County’s positive test results, Rigler said.

With the state’s new coronavirus classification, Rigler advised residents to be vigilant about their social distancing practices such as staying six feet away from others, diligent hand washing, staying home when sick and avoiding non-essential travel.

Regarding Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ’s projection that coronavirus cases will peak in state around mid to late April, with hospitalizations expected to peak in May, Rigler declined to offer an expanded view of those predictions.

“Right now, we’re not modeling specific case counts or counts of potential deaths, ” she said. “We’re really looking at international and national models of disease to try and understand where out curve is going to be … That’s helping us to prepare for surges in our hospital system and giving us an idea of when we might be able to expect a significant increase in case counts.”

Although some — including President Donald Trump — have touted the possibility that the looming warmer months may offer some relief to the spread of coronavirus, Rigler is hesitant to embrace that viewpoint.

“It would be great if that was true,” Rigler said.

“There’s not a lot known about this yet and so we are not certain if that’s really how the disease will behave in warmer weather.”

Rigler added that Arizona is continuing to plan its response to COVID-19 with the notion that it will not be impacted by varying weather.


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