Mohave County saw its third confirmed case of coronavirus in three days on Thursday with the Public Health Department announcing a positive test in the Kingman area.
According to the release, the patient is an adult who is being treated in the hospital under strict isolation protocols. That makes the patient in Kingman the first to be hospitalized with the disease in the county. The county’s first two coronavirus patients are reportedly self-isolated and recovering at home. The first patient, whose test returned positive Tuesday, is an adult from Lake Havasu City. The second confirmed test was returned Wednesday to an adult patient in Bullhead City.
No other demographic information has been provided for any of the three cases due to patient confidentiality.
Dr. Khamranie Persaud, a member of the Havasu COVID-19 Task Force, said it is important for patients to feel confident they can get tested without worrying about losing their anonymity.
“As people become positive I think people have to respect that, otherwise there will be a stigma attached to it,” Persaud said. “A lot of people want to know the age, the gender, who the person is, where the person has been, and for that to be made public. In a smaller town we kind of have to be careful to respect people’s privacy. A lot of the people we are testing are asking for their confidentiality to remain intact and we have to respect that.”
The Mohave County Health Department says it is working with all three patients to determine who they have come into close contact with. The county is reaching out to inform those individuals and asking to watch for symptoms and to self-isolate if need be. Further information about the county’s efforts to notify contacts was unavailable on Thursday.
From Havasu’s frontlines
In Lake Havasu City the COVID-19 Task Force, an informal group of local medical professionals and other volunteers, has recently taken the lead on expanding testing efforts throughout the city while also coordinating efforts to provide homemade masks to as many healthcare professionals and citizens, and starting other initiatives to aid the community during this crisis.
Over the last couple of weeks, Persaud said she has noticed people reacting to the situation in Mohave County in one of two ways – being proactive or reactive.
“It’s been tough for our group because we come across many people who feel that what our group is doing is unnecessary,” she said. “But looking at pattern recognition and the data, that should help us figure out how to act. It is hard to hit a moving target, but it is kind of easier to do so if you see that the target has a pattern. We can see how COVID has behaved in the world so we can preemptively do a lot of these things. We don’t have to wait until we have numbers in the hundreds before we implement a lot of these preventative measures.”
Persaud said hopefully, now that Mohave has started seeing confirmed cases of the virus, people will take preventative measures more seriously.
“I think it is a call to action for people who have been thinking that maybe Havasu is immune to it,” she said. “It’s here, it’s been here all along, and will continue to be here for a little while. We need to take as many steps as we can to keep it from spreading quickly.”
The local task force has been performing community-wide testing for the last couple weeks and Persaud said she is starting to pick up on some worrying trends. She said the task force is getting an increasing number of calls requesting testing, and the people who have been getting tested are showing progressively more severe symptoms.
“Before when we were testing it was mostly people with milder symptoms,” Persaud said. “Now as we are doing more rounds of testing the people being tested are actively coughing and can’t stop coughing. You can visibly see that they are sick – they look flush, they look feverish. So the people we are testing are getting more and more serious with each round of testing that we are doing… So it is definitely a call to quarantine – everyone please stay home – that is the most important thing.”
The task force also has been dealing with longer-than-expected wait times to get the test results back from the outside commercial labs that process the samples. Persaud said most of the newer tests are supposed to take between 24 and 72 hours, but said Thursday that she was still waiting on some of the tests that she submitted last week.
Persaud said she couldn’t give an accurate estimate for how many tests the task force has administered because each healthcare provider within the group tracks their own patients individually and sends the information to the Mohave County Health Department. The county said at its press conference on Monday that it is working on totaling up the number of tests administered by all the providers in the county and distributing that information to the public, but that has not occurred as of Thursday.
Dealing with shortages
Although the Havasu COVID-19 Task Force is working to expand community testing, obtaining the actual test kits has been difficult up to this point – and not just for Mohave County.
“I think nationally we have been under testing, due to the lack of testing available, and it is the same in Havasu,” Persaud said. “We have had the virus here for a while, but due to under testing we haven’t been able to capture that data. But we are finally catching up. We are capturing the data and we are testing to the best of our abilities with what we have.”
While obtaining tests have been the limiting factor for the task force to expand testing in Havasu to this point, Persaud said the group is also starting to run low on personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We are doing the best that we can, but that is probably an issue that we are going to run into fairly quickly – we are going to run out of PPE,” she said.
Persaud estimated the task force can continue testing at the current pace for about two more weeks with the equipment it already has, but will need to find a way to restock soon.
Help may already be on the way.
On Saturday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced the state will be receiving a shipment of more than 400,000 PPE from the Strategic National Stockpile. The shipment includes 60,900 N95 facemasks, 244,000 surgical masks, 22,200 surgical gowns, and nearly 90,000 sets of gloves. The press release said the equipment would be distributed to county health departments to be passed out to hospitals and healthcare providers.
“Even though Gov. Ducey has passed a lot of PPE to the health departments, locally we are still having a lot of trouble getting that PPE out to the individual providers,” Persaud said. “So we are still not seeing that live. It hasn’t quite trickled down to the people who are doing the testing.”
The Mohave County Health Department was not able to provide information about the PPE mentioned in Gov. Ducey’s release on Thursday.