Coronavirus testing

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic was the story that dominated the news is 2020. Many people wanted to get tested for the virus. This scene was part of the ‘testing blitz’ in late May at the La Paz County office complex in Parker.

If any one story or event could be seen as the top news story of 2020, it would be the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. It affected just about everything, and it overshadowed everything else. It changed how people interacted with each other. It had an effect on schools and education, professional and amateur sports, the economy, recreation and entertainment, and how elections are conducted.

The catch words of the 2020 were “social distancing” and “mask up.”

The numbers alone are staggering. From a small outbreak in 2019 in Wuhan, China, the virus has become a worldwide pandemic in a year’s time. There have been 80 million cases worldwide, and 1.76 million deaths. The vast majority of people will recover, as 56 million people around the world have done. However, this is only people who didn’t die. It does not include those who have long-term health complications from the virus.

In December 2019, the Chinese government reported an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the city of Wuhan. The first cases appeared to be related to a seafood and live animal market, but it was soon clear human-to-human transfer of the virus was occurring.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States was a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, Washington. He was diagnosed on Jan. 20, 2020. He had recently traveled to Wuhan to visit family, and, after learning about the virus outbreak, decided to seek medical attention when he developed a cough and flu-like symptoms.

At that time, there were just under 10,000 cases worldwide in 21 countries.

On Feb. 26, there were 15 cases in the United States. President Donald Trump predicted the number of cases would soon be down to zero.

On Dec. 26, there had been 19.2 million cases in the United States, and 338,000 Americans had died. Of the cases that had reached a conclusion and had been closed, 11 million had recovered for a recovery rate of 97 percent. 

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Arizona occurred Jan. 26. A student at Arizona State University who had travelled to Wuhan tested positive for the virus.

As of Dec. 26, the Arizona Department of Health Services said there had been 493,041 cases in the state. Maricopa County led the state with over 300,000 cases. More than 8,400 Arizonans have died from complications related to the virus. According to the Worldometers website, which tracks cases worldwide, the recovery rate in the state among the cases that have reached a conclusion is about 90 percent.

La Paz County did not see its first case until March 25. According to ADHS, La Paz County had 1,316 cases as of Dec. 26, and 33 county residents have died. More than 500 of those cases have been members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, and eight Tribal members have died.

The fall and winter have brought about a “surge” of new cases in the county, state and nation. At the start of October, La Paz County had 548 cases. This means the number of cases has more than doubled in just under three months. At the start of December, the state had 359,000 cases, which means over 135,000 cases have been added in just under a month.

Nationwide, there were 7.64 million cases on Oct. 4. With 19.2 million cases on Dec. 26, that means 11.6 million cases have been added in just under three months.

The pandemic had many political figures calling for mail-in ballots so voters would not have to risk being exposed at the polls. President Donald Trump opposed these efforts, claiming they would lead to widespread vote fraud.

In the Presidential election held Nov. 3, the Democrat, former Vice President Joe Biden, received more votes than the incumbent, Trump. The President has since claimed he really won the election, but vote fraud stole the election from him. He cites mail-in ballots as the primary source of that fraud.

The President’s attorneys and his allies have filed more than 60 lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the election. So far, the lawsuits have all been rejected.

Some have claimed the pandemic is a “hoax” that was concocted to defeat Trump in his bid for reelection.

The effect on the economy can be seen in the number of business that have been closed, forced to restrict services, or had to have layoffs due to the restrictions caused by efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

In March, Gov. Doug Ducey declared an emergency and issued executive orders that closed many businesses deemed “non-essential.” These included many small businesses, like restaurants, theaters, gyms, salons and barber shops. Many of these restrictions were lifted May 15.

At the end of May, there were 18,700 cases statewide. By the end of June, that had increased to 74,000.

The Parker Regional Chamber of Commerce & Tourism had to cancel their biggest fund-raiser, the Tube Float. They and the other chambers in the county spent much of their time helping local businesses cope with the pandemic.

The schools were closed for most of the last quarter of the school year. Students attended classes on-line or via take-home packets. Drive-through sites provided students with meals. Most of the spring high school sports season was cancelled, as were youth sports like Little League and youth football. The traditional graduation ceremony for Parker High School was cancelled, so they had a parade for the graduates. The parade got such a great reception from local residents, there was talk of doing it again.

While the school year started on time, it was still distance learning. By the start of the second quarter, the Parker area had met all the “benchmarks” set by the state for resuming some in-person classes. They now operate with “hybrid” learning. Students attend classes two days a week and have distance for two days. The groups alternate attending school on Fridays. Face masks are required and social distancing rules are in effect.

The high school football and volleyball seasons started late and were shorter than usual. There was limited attendance by fans. Some schools in the state cancelled fall sports altogether. The winter sports season has been pushed back to mid-January.

The biggest enterprise and biggest tourist attraction of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the BlueWater Resort & Casino, was closed from March 20 to Sept. 14. It has been on a phased reopening since then. The hotel recently reopened on a limited basis. With the reinstatement of the Tribes’ “Stay at Home” order Dec. 24, the resort cut back their hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Registered guests at the hotel will be allowed access if they can show ID.

One of the biggest complaints heard in the early months of the pandemic was that equipment and supplied for testing were limited. This led to Gov. Ducey ordering a “testing blitz’ in late May.

Testing is now available from several sources in La Paz County, including the Regional Center for Border Health, Inc. at 601 Riverside Drive in Parker. La Paz Regional Hospital offers testing with same day results. Tribal members can be tested at Indian Health Services.

So, what will happen in 2021? The experts don’t doubt this nasty little bug will still be around. However, vaccines are hitting the market, and treatments are being expected to improve. Doctors and medical facilities will be better prepared as they now know what to expect. Masks and social distancing will still be in effect for the foreseeable future.

   

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