By Jon Johnson
GRAHAM COUNTY – The Arizona Department of Health Services updated its positive cases of COVID-19 for Graham County as three as of Saturday, however, that number is incorrect due to a false positive accidentally reported between the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Arizona State Department of Health.
According to Graham County Health Department Director Brian Douglas, the San Carlos Apache Reservation still does not have any positive cases of COVID-19 and Graham County’s number remains stagnant at only two.
“This was a tribal case and they accidentally submitted it as a positive and it wasn’t,” Douglas said. “So, it was just a reporting error on the tribe.”
The only positive tests for COVID-19 in Graham County were linked to an employee of the Pima Elementary School in early March who likely contracted the virus during out-of-state travel and a person who had close contact with the employee. Both of those cases ran their course and both patients fully recovered.
“Everyone is just overwhelmed and it’s just a simple keystroke that can make the difference,” Douglas said.
After the article was published, the San Carlos Apache Tribe issued a press release advising that it believed it was the human error on the state’s part and not the Tribe.
Natzai L. Zhou, Ph.D., Deputy Director for the Tribe’s Department of Health & Human Services, a Family Nurse Practitioner, who also oversees the Tribe’s Public Health Nursing program and leads its epidemiology efforts, said, “The Tribe has a thorough, structured process for analyzing and reporting test results to the State. Tests are sent to LabCorp and its findings are uploaded electronically onto the Tribe’s system and then onto Medsis, the state’s Medical Electronic Disease Surveillance Intelligence System. However, Arizona DHHS relies on human input . . . So, the false-positive reported by the Gila Herald was a result of Arizona DHHS and not the Tribe. Unfortunately, no one at Arizona DHHS called the Tribe to verify.”
Statewide, the number of cases has risen to 2,018 with 52 deaths. Maricopa County leads the way in cases with 1,171, followed by Pima County with 326, Navajo County – 177, Coconino County – 147, Pinal County – 89, Yavapai County – 43, Apache County – 20, Yuma County – 14, Mohave County – 12, Cochise County – 7, Santa Cruz County – 4, Gila County – 3, Graham County – 2, La Paz County – 2, Greenlee County – 1.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, a total of 103 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Graham County and 40 in Greenlee County.
Big Box stores in Graham County have started policies to help curb the spread by limiting the number of people allowed in each store. On Friday, there were lines to get into the Home Depot store as it only allowed 100 customers inside at a time. The store also closed down entrances for its lumberyard and garden center to better keep track of the number inside. Once they reached their limit, customers outside had to wait for customers inside to exit before being allowed in the store.
Walmart also began operating in a similar fashion Friday and created barriers so customers would go in one door and out a separate one right next to it. Beginning Saturday, the store will allow only five customers for every 1,000 square feet of space. Additionally, store aisles will be designated one-way only, according to a release from Walmart.
This article was updated with information provided by the San Carlos Apache Tribe after publication.