Gov. Doug Ducey issued a declaration of emergency and executive order on Wednesday afternoon following the COVID-19, or coronavirus, outbreak.
The declaration will provide health officials and administrators with tools to further combat the spread of COVID-19 and allows the state access to $500,000 of emergency funds.
“While Arizona is not currently facing the number of cases we've seen in some other states, we are anticipating additional positive cases and we're not taking any chances,” Ducey said.
Ducey's announcement comes after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic Wednesday morning.
Ducey's executive order requires assisted living homes to give advanced symptom checks to visitors and healthcare workers, insurance plans to cover out of network providers relating to COVID-19 and for insurance companies to cover 100% of the copay for COVID-19 testing. The order also prohibits price gouging for COVID-19 tests.
“This is about public health and protecting lives, especially those of our elderly and most vulnerable. That's why today I'm taking additional actions,” Ducey said.
Ducey said Arizona has not yet experienced community spread at an assisted living facility but decided to take preemptive measures after seeing the amount of community spread in Washington assisted living facilities.
Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also approved $12.4 million in funding to assist Arizona's public health response to the outbreak in addition to $500,000 already provided by the CDC. Christ said this funding is important for their ongoing efforts to protect Arizonans while causing minimal disruption to daily life.
"To stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable community members, we ask everyone to routinely implement infection prevention measures," Christ said. "The best way to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses are to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds."
As of right now, Arizona has two confirmed positive cases, seven presumptive positives and 32 tests pending results.
One of the first confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. was a member of the ASU community. The community member has since fully recovered and left quarantine.
Following an increase in cases, the University took action, recently resulting in the transitioning of all ASU on-campus courses to online formats beginning March 16th.
Ducey said that today's actions were an attempt to be proactive about the outbreak and further potential spread.
"We will continue our approach of being calm and steady in our efforts to protect public health and we'll continue to provide facts as we have them in a timely and transparent manner," Ducey said.
Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.