You cancelled a Spring Break trip to Vegas, because of worry about the COVID-19 coronavirus?
You planned to stock-up on bottled water and toilet paper – but store shelves were bare?
The truth is that even here in Globe-Miami, people are over-reacting to national news coverage (and misinformation on social media) of the spread of COVID-19. Awareness of the disease is definitely important – but unreasonable panic could prove more dangerous than contagion.
Gila County Public Health and Emergency Management briefed the Gila County Board of Supervisors last week, and staff have coordinated a multi-faceted outreach campaign to local residents, first-responders and health professionals to share facts and raise awareness of the COVID-19 coronavirus, while balancing education about the far more common flu.
“We’re trying to reassure people to keep some perspective: so far during the flu season in the United States there have been at least 34 million flu illnesses, 350,000 hospitalizations, and over 20,000 deaths from the flu,” reported Health and Emergency Management Director Michael O’Driscoll. “Here in Arizona we have monitored widespread flu activity, in fact, just in the past week alone there were 971 laboratory confirmed influenza cases with a total of 27,785 cases reported throughout the season so far.”
Compare those flu statistics with COVID-19 coronavirus: Arizona had just six cases reported as of last week – each of the six closely monitored, and quarantined -- and zero fatalities.
District 2 Gila County Supervisor Tim Humphrey praised the Health and Emergency Management Department’s balanced approach to educate residents, both via publicity – and prevention efforts such as the free ‘drive through flu shots’ offered last fall.
“As our Public Health staff have been explaining and repeating, there are common-sense everyday precautions we should all be taking in order to avoid the flu, which has been far more widespread, and more deadly,” said Supervisor Humphrey. “Yes, educate yourself about coronavirus – but keep things in perspective, and be cautious about media hype and over-reaction. Our team at Gila County Public Health get their information directly from state and federal public health professionals, and they’re working overtime to monitor and update us.”
How to prevent spread of flu, COVID-19, or other infectious disease in Gila County? For one thing, educate yourself about the symptoms. Most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms, and most recover at home – without needing to see a doctor or visit a hospital. If you have mild symptoms, stay home -- and practice ‘social distancing’ from others in the household where possible. If you do have shortness of breath or more severe symptoms, call your health care provider to get instructions before arriving. Also:
Travel? Have you recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 cases have been reported, such as the state of Washington? If yes, and if you developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel: stay home. Same instruction applies if you had contact with someone who is suspected to have coronavirus, or the more common flu.
Fever? Remember – the far-more-common influenza brings symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you experience these, but have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and have not tested positive for COVID-19, stay home and avoid other people until 72 hours after the fever is gone and symptoms are better.
Holding a public event? Encourage people who are feeling sick to stay home and avoid the event. Have hand-sanitizer or hand washing stations available; avoid hand-shakes, hugs and other close-contact personal greetings.
COVID-19 Coronavirus Facts
How Can I Prevent Spreading Respiratory Viruses?
Wash hands often with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Common Questions, Commonsense Answers
Question: I am currently out of town, is it safe to travel back to AZ? Do I need to tell the airport?
Answer: Yes, it is safe to fly home to Arizona. This current presumptive cases in Arizona do not mean you or any member of your family was exposed or is at greater risk of getting the virus. Therefore, it is not necessary to share this information with the airport. If you or any of the people you are traveling with are sick and must fly, it is important that they wear a mask.
Generally, because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, travelers should try to avoid contact with sick passengers and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol.
Can I travel out of AZ?
Travel is safe for individuals who are not sick. If you are sick, it is a good idea not to travel to avoid spreading your illness to others. If you must travel and are sick, it is important to wear a mask to limit the risk of spreading your germs to others.
Individuals over 60 and with chronic health conditions living in the house
For people over age 60 and those with chronic medical conditions living in your home, the best way to keep them safe is to keep them away from anyone who is sick. This means keeping any sick people in a separate room and making sure sick people wear a mask when they are round others in the house.
If it’s not possible to separate sick people from well people, then sick people should wear a mask.
Pregnant Women living in the house
Although there is no evidence that pregnant women are at higher risk of getting COVID-19, it is recommended that pregnant women stay away from anyone who is ill. If that is not possible, they should wear a facemask around ill people.
If you prefer social media, follow Gila County Health & Emergency Management on Facebook for updates from official sources; like and follow the Gila County Sheriff’s Office page, too – and signup for localized emergency alerts you can receive by text, voicemail or email through EverBridge. Sign up for your choice of emergency alerts via links posted at Gila County Health & Emergency Management on Facebook, or online at