Now that a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Pima Elementary School, Graham County Health Department officials would like students who are displaying symptoms of the coronavirus to participate in an "evaluation and testing clinic" next week during spring break.
Health officials released a statement around 10 p.m. Friday stating they hope to "minimize the impact of this event and limit the spread throughout our community."
Graham County Board of Supervisor Danny Miller said as many as 166 fifth and sixth graders may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Students who have a cough and fever are asked to visit Pima Junior High on one of the following days: Monday, Tuesday or Friday of next week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The clinic will be staffed by health care providers from around the county.
"Like many communities across the world, our community has been challenged by this new virus. It will take a community-wide effort to fight COVID-19," said Brian Douglas, Graham County Health Department director.
Once people arrive at the junior high, they need to remain in their vehicle, Douglas said. A staff member will come to their car and give them instructions.
"We will be trying to avoid any further exposure with group congregations," he said.
The health department is also asking for those fifth and sixth graders to voluntarily remain at home until March 25, unless they are seeking medical care.
"During this period, reasonable efforts should be made to keep the student away from others," Douglas said. "While we understand that this can be a challenge within households, we are only asking that reasonable efforts are made to minimize the potential spread of the virus."
The voluntary quarantine period does not apply to non-symptomatic household contacts at this time, Douglas said.
"Evidence to-date indicates that children 18 and under experience a mild form of this illness similar to a cold," Douglas said. "In fact, over 80 percent of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in China experience a mild form of this virus. Those who have serious illness tend to be older adults and those with chronic health conditions."
Smith said the public should expect another news release tomorrow as officials from around the county discuss postponements, cancellations and/or other “social distancing” measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“The virus will not likely tax the resources of our local healthcare providers, but that may be because of the prudence and caution we will use over the next 3-4 weeks,” Smith said.
People who are sick with fever, shortness of breath and cough should contact their health care provider. Unless they have severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, it is unlikely they need to go to an emergency room, Douglas said.
He also said people need to contact their health care provider ahead of time, if possible, to avoid exposing anyone in the waiting room.
"There is currently no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. This is very important because a positive test will not change how an individual is treated," Douglas said. Similar to how we manage flu, sick children and adults with mild symptoms should stay at home, drink fluids and take over the counter medications until they recover."
The health department announced around 6 p.m. Friday that a Pima Unified School District employee is the first person in Graham County to test positive for COVID-19.
On Wednesday night, the Pima Unified School District announced no school would be held Thursday because it had "received a report of exposure to an unknown illness" at the Pima elementary school.
On Friday morning, the health department announced it had no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, but testing was ongoing. Officials said all completed tests had been negative, but at that time they were still awaiting the test results from the staff member.