Arizona’s first death tied to the new coronavirus is a Maricopa County man in his 50s, state and Maricopa County health officials said Friday night.
The man worked for the Phoenix Aviation Department, according to a letter sent to employees from City Manager Ed Zuercher.
“While every effort is made in normal situations to protect the privacy of our employees, we made the decision to inform all of you about this death because of the health emergency our world is facing,” he wrote. “We will not discuss the name of the employee or any other details.”
The man, who had underlying health conditions, died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health said in a joint statement.
Maricopa County is notifying close contacts of the man and will ask them to monitor for symptoms, health officials said.
In his letter, Zuercher said that the man worked in a remote office and had minimal public interaction within any of the terminals and related airport facilities.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of our employee and to the entire Aviation Department,” he wrote. “The city staff who we know of who had close contact with our employee will be notified individually and provided health guidelines from the County.”
As of Friday, Arizona had 76 reported cases of COVID-19, including 35 in Maricopa County.
“We express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends grieving their loved one during this difficult time,” ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said in a prepared statement.
“COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions. We expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and there could be more deaths. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect you and your family from this disease.”
There is no prevention or known effective treatment for COVID-19. It’s spread mainly through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s also possible for someone to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object, and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
For people with mild illness, state officials advise staying home, drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest. For people with more severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, individuals are advised to seek health care.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported the U.S. case count at 15,219, including 201 deaths.
Reach the reporter at Stephanie.Innes@gannett.com or at 602-444-8369. Follow her on Twitter @stephanieinnes.
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