Dr. Phillip Williams, the Head of Pediatrics at Mariposa Community Health Center (MCHC), and currently working on COVID-19 crisis management, reported that the clinic intends to have curbside medicine in place by April 27 so that all sick patients will be seen outside. He reported that Mariposa has switched to telemedicine for a majority of its appointments. As a community health center it provides services to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.
As of April 24, the Mariposa Clinics had performed 90 COVID-19 tests. Testing has also been done at the Clinic in Patagonia since mid-April. The tests that they are using are CDC recommended and FDA approved, called PCR Nasal Swab tests. Although there is a 30% chance of a false negative result, its specificity is 90%, which means that if a person tests positive that it is very accurate. If a person tests negative but continues to show symptoms of fever, lower respiratory tract infection and/or general malaise they are recommended to be re-tested, said Williams.
Though there are other tests that CDC recommends, some that take swabs from the mouth and others that take swab from the front of the nose, they are not readily available.
Due to privacy regulations, Williams could not reveal how many confirmed cases have come through their clinics. However, the state (AZ) Dept. of Health Services has been updating a daily zip code map on its website since April 20. Once a patient is diagnosed as positive, the County Dept. of Health Services is contacted and the epidimologist on staff performs contact tracing, seeking people who have come in contact with the patient.
Testing is also available at Holy Cross Hospital and Nextcare Urgentcare in Nogales. Shelly Jacobs, the County Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator, said that Holy Cross only has three ventilators. Holy Cross CEO Debra Knapheide wrote that sister hospitals St. Joseph and St. Mary’s in Tucson have rooms that “are being repurposed to designated COVID units for more streamlined and specialized care. Additional capacity is available by flexing the utilization of other areas.”
Even if the county did build an emergency hospital for an anticipated surge in cases, there are not enough health care workers in the county to run the hospital, said Jacobs. Therefore any of the supplies the county receives are distributed to the existing healthcare facilities in the county. The county had just completed updating a pandemic response plan in February 2020 and because of that, Jacob said they have a “robust plan,” with updated communication with all key players across the county.
At this point there is no way to know if we have reached our peak of cases or not, according to Williams. There is “anxiety and fear all around the board,” and we must remember to care for our emotional health, he said. There are behavioral counselors available at the clinic through telemedicine and he encouraged people to call with questions.
Williams also recommended connecting with others virtually, eating healthy foods and exercising.