Yuma County confirmed Wednesday that a fourth person locally has tested positive in a state or commercial lab for COVID-19.
Tony Reyes, chairman of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors, said that the fourth case is an elderly male who was part of the family of the Arizona Western College student who tested positive on Monday.
Reyes said that health department officials have already started reaching out to possible points of contact, or people who may have been exposed directly to patients during their time with the virus. Beyond that, Reyes said no additional information is available.
Currently, there are four known cases of COVID-19 in Yuma County.
The first case was identified as a Marine stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. That individual’s test came back on March 19.
The second case is a student at Arizona Western College — and a relative of the fourth case. The third case was a roommate of the first case. The second and third cases were announced by the county on March 23.
Reyes said that local officials will start trying to coordinate how they release information through a Joint Information Center (JIC), which Reyes said should operate as “a clearing house of information.”
Kevin Tunell, communications director for Yuma County, and Reyes said that county and state health officials have been cautious about releasing additional information out of concern for the safety of those patients and to keep people calm in case they’re worried about having been in contact with them.
“These people have a right of privacy, and health officials are trying not to release enough information to make it easy to determine who they are, for obvious reasons,” Reyes said. “They’re going through a difficult time, and we don’t want to make it worse by making them worried about everyone knowing who they are and that they have the virus.”
Tunell said that anyone who should be concerned about coming into contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus should be confident that they’re fine unless they’ve been contacted by public health officials.
“They’re pretty good at what they do when it comes to finding points of contact,” he said. “If you haven’t gotten a call from the health department, you’re probably fine.”
“They’re really good at tracking who positives have been with and making sure we can quarantine them as soon as possible,” Reyes said.
Additionally, local and state officials have stopped using the term “presumptive positive” as state and federal health officials have started counting all positives as positives, regardless of whether they were tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or by a state or commercial lab.
Reyes added that health officials have improved markedly in their ability to test, and as that happens, he and other officials are expecting the number of confirmed cases to spike because of the testing, not the spread.
Tunell also said that as information becomes available, the county will make it available on the web page created to collect information about COVID-19 for Yuma County — https://www.yumacountyaz.gov/.
But, he said, it’s hard to tell when information on positives will become more available as public health officials are trying to contact people who may be points of contacts, or people who may have been exposed directly to someone with the virus, before more information about the positives is released.
County and state health departments are the only officials receiving information on the positives, Tunell said, and the release of additional information is at their discretion.