Paul's Note - February 28, 2020

Although there are no confirmed cases in Pima County, I’ve gotten questions about coronavirus. There are two things that I as a policy maker can do wrong: over-react and under-react. I don’t want to do either, but I do want to let you know what your local government has been doing to prepare.

Coronavirus is also known as 2019 novel coronavirus or SARS CoV-2 and was first detected in China’s Hubei province in December. As many of you have heard, it has spread to other countries, including the United States.

Although the Pima County Health Department has done assessments on 79 returning travelers and related individuals, I need to say again that there hasn’t been a confirmed case in our area.

The city doesn’t have a health department, but we have been coordinating with the Pima County Health Department, the agency responsible for public health in our region, on our preparedness and response. The City Manager and our executive leadership team have been meeting with County leaders about this issue since December and continue to communicate with them weekly or more often as we may need to.

The City has many employees that deal with the public on a daily basis, so some of our plans involve making sure that we, as a workplace, don’t contribute to the spread of the virus should it appear in Tucson. This means special precautions for first responders and customer service people as well as allowing some employees to work remotely.

Our effort is not just coordinated with Pima County, but with other government entities all the way from the federal government to school districts. In one of my previous terms as vice mayor, I saw how our emergency management personnel work when it looked like we would have a flood emergency. Thank God we didn’t, but it showed me how professional our local emergency planning operation is. We’ve got some very good people working on this.

You may have seen scenes from cities like Wuhan or Hong Kong where people are wearing surgical-style masks. Those are not being recommended by local officials at this time. The Pima County Health Department has, however, several recommendations. The number one is to get your flu vaccine. Even though coronavirus isn’t here, there is no need to take risks with the regular flu.

Other recommendations include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth

  • Stay home when you are sick

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

  • Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces with a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

Also, the Pima County Health Department maintains both a Twitter feed and a Facebook page that they are frequently updating with everything from health tips to the latest news. Make sure to follow them.

As your councilmember, I will also make sure to keep you updated as well. This may not end up being an issue for our community, but we need to be ready if it is.