BISBEE — Though Gov. Doug Ducey plans to ease into opening some businesses again, the public should not get the idea the problem with the virus that shut the state down is over, county officials said Friday in a work session.

Carrie Langley, Cochise Health and Social Services director, explained to county supervisors Tom Borer, Ann English and Peggy Judd that the public should not stop following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to control the spread of COVID–19.

She said people need to maintain personal health responsibility by social distancing, hand washing, not touching one’s face and keeping frequently touched surfaces disinfected to “keep ourselves safe.”

“As we return to a new level of normal, people should be prepared to continue the CDC guidelines and use caution,” she added.

Cochise County has been fortunate so far with just 39 cases of the virus out of 797 tested, added County Administrator Ed Gilligan.

Langley said the large rural nature of the county makes social distancing an easy matter for residents.

Does testing really help?

Testing was an issue brought up by English, as she explained some of her constituents think everybody needs to be tested before the state can fully get back to business.

“People are sitting at home and watching TV and listening to the radio and are hearing ‘testing, testing, testing,’” she said. “People want to be tested to feel safe.”

However, testing is not a good indicator for more than the time it takes to get the results back, she continued. “You can touch your car door, anything, and if the virus is on the surface, you can get it. So, testing is only good for the moment.”

Borer pointed out by testing everyone who is asymptomatic, medical, laboratory and health staff resources are stretched for results only good for the day. “That impacts the people who have it.”

With only four public health nurses in the county, Langley said resources were limited and the staff was needed to follow up with the cases of COVID–19 already diagnosed.

The University of Arizona will be testing for antibodies in Cochise County soon and another unidentified entity is planning a test site which will open this month over a few weekends, she said.

Household contact’s the culprit

Langley noted 30 percent of the county cases were the result of household contact, meaning one family member infected another. However, in some family situations, the virus was not passed around the home to family members.

“You can prevent the spread to others by social distancing, not touching your face, hand washing and frequent disinfection of countertops and other surfaces in the home,” she added. “Stay away from sick people.”

Langley also said masks were not essential in stopping the spread of the virus. In fact, the use of masks by the general public can impact the supplies needed for emergency services, health providers and hospital staff.

English suggested Langley and county public information officer Amanda Baillie work together to inform residents about testing to ease minds and assuage fears.

Gabe Lavine, county Emergency Management Services director, said he and staff would continue to look over the data coming in on the virulence of the virus and the number of people diagnosed and hospitalized.

The supervisors and county health and emergency services staff meet weekly to talk about how the county is managing the COVID–19 pandemic.

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