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Full impact of COVID-19 on Maricopa County’s overall deaths still unknown

(Getty Images/Leopoldo Smith)

PHOENIX — Overall deaths in Maricopa County are higher now than one year ago, but exactly how much of that is due to the coronavirus pandemic is currently unknown, according to the public health department.

In addition to deaths directly caused by the coronavirus, “we know that there are likely to be some deaths that are indirectly due to COVID-19,” Maricopa County Medical Director Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine said during a press conference.

“For instance, as with influenza, if somebody has congestive heart failure or underlying lung disease, they may have a very minor infection with COVID-19, but that worsens their lung disease or their heart failure.”

Sunenshine also said fear of catching the virus could have also delayed patients’ routine, including life-preserving visits to doctors.

“Their chronic illness may have worsened, and they may have ended up dying from their chronic illness due to their indirect effects and to the COVID-19 response,” she added.

Maricopa County announced Wednesday it had 142 bodies in the medical examiner’s morgue, just below the normal capacity of 150, and well below a surge capacity of 209.

Refrigeration trucks are ready if needed to provided extra space for bodies, Maricopa County Communications Director Fields Moseley said.

Sunenshine added that long-term care facilities have also experienced a decline in the rate of coronavirus cases and deaths.

“I like to attribute that to the long-term care facilities working with us to make sure that when we have a single case identified in either staff or residents, we immediately work with them to put every single person on isolation precautions,” she said.

She also credited facilities for following public health guidelines and taking steps to restrict family visitations.

“We currently have 208 facilities that have had a confirmed case in a resident or a staff person in the prior 28 days,” Sunenshine said. “We have closed 128 outbreaks in long-term care facilities.”

Closing an outbreak means a facility has gone 28 days without a new case.

Sunenshine added some facilities have “relapsed” after relaxing isolation controls, but public health has guided those centers so they can shore up procedural weaknesses.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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