With spreading virus comes fears -- and lots of stockpiling

FILE - In this March 3, 2020 file photo, a sign on a shelf at a QFC grocery store in Kirkland, Wash., advises shoppers that all hand sanitizer products are sold out. Legions of nervous hoarders are stocking up on canned goods, frozen dinners, toilet paper, and cleaning products. Such hoarding that's expected to last for weeks has created big challenges for discounters and grocery stores as well as food delivery services. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FLORENCE — There are now five confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Pinal County, health officials said Wednesday.

The Pinal County Public Health Department said both new cases are in residents over 60 years of age from the same household as the three earlier Pinal County cases. They are recovering at home in the Queen Creek/San Tan Valley area.

Pinal County Public Health officials said they continue to investigate the cases to determine if any other people were exposed.

State officials on Wednesday reported three more diagnosed cases, including the Pinal cases, raising the Arizona total to nine.

Arizona Department of Health Services says one person in the Pinal household to test positive for coronavirus is a student at American Leadership Academy, Ironwood K-12 Campus in Queen Creek.

The original patient, a health care worker in her 40s, has recovered.

Pinal County health officials have said the woman is not a known contact of any confirmed coronavirus patients and has not traveled to any areas where coronavirus is spreading widely. This prompted county agencies to treat the case as the first instance of "community spread" in the state.

“Community spread refers to the spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. Just like during flu season, if you get symptoms, you need to stay home and take care of yourself,” Dr. Shauna McIsaac, director of Pinal County Public Health, said Friday. “Similar to the flu, most people will only have mild symptoms that do not require a visit to a health care provider or hospital. Individuals who are older or have underlying health conditions like chronic lung disease are at higher risk of more severe illness. Occasionally, a young, healthy person will have severe disease. Unfortunately, this woman is one of those people.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services announced that state and local health officials have been working with the administration of American Leadership Academy, Ironwood K-12 campus regarding the matter.

As the school recently started spring break, administrators will have time to fully implement public health recommendations before school is back in session, health officials said. The school administration has proactively taken steps to ensure the safety of the families and staff, including cleaning all areas of the campus, establishing enhanced daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces, adding hand sanitizing stations to hallways and incorporating routine hand hygiene practices throughout the day when students return.

Washing hands with soap and water and not touching eyes, nose or mouth continues to be the best way to decrease the spread of the virus, officials said. They also urged anyone feeling sick to stay home.

The virus spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The symptoms are thought to appear between two and 14 days after exposure, the department said. Children appear to have milder forms of the respiratory illness and aren't at risk for “severe disease,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

For the latest information about COVID-19, its symptoms and advice on ways to prevent infection, visit pinal.gov/publichealth.

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