Presented to you by:
Karen Smith, RN, NMCC, LSSGB
Manager, Infection Prevention and Employee Health
Chair, Safety Subcommittee
Wickenburg Community Hospital
Community levels reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now carry a recommendation of mask use in public indoor settings in Navajo and Apache counties.
Based on the latest community levels for Maricopa, Pima, Coconino, Cochise, Gila, and Mohave counties, the CDC recommends talking to your health care provider if you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease to find out whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions.
Our guidance follows the CDC’s. COVID-19 cases have risen week-to-week since early April, though they remain far below levels seen during the winter surge fueled by the Omicron variant. COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low but have been gradually increasing. It’s important to be aware of community spread, the steps that reduce COVID-19 transmission, the proven benefits of vaccines, and the fact that COVID-19 remains active in our state.
The CDC’s mask and mitigation recommendations are based on a community level that considers COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and COVID-19’s impact on each county’s health care system. CDC community levels for counties can be found here.
Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yavapai, and Yuma counties continue to have low community levels.
Wherever you are in Arizona, we recommend assessing your risk and the risk of those you will be around when considering mitigation steps. Those who are older or who have compromised immune systems are at greater risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. While the state does not have any mask mandates, masks might be required by property owners in certain settings such as businesses and congregate care facilities. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should stay home for at least 5 full days then wear a mask and maintain physical distance until a full 10 days have passed, even if you don’t exhibit symptoms.
An N95 or KN95 mask offers the highest level of protection, but every type of mask protects if it fits properly and you wear it correctly and consistently.
It remains critically important to get vaccinated and boosted and to get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or are at least five days after exposure. You’ll find convenient providers of safe and highly effective vaccines and booster doses at azhealth.gov/FindVaccine and hundreds of testing providers at azhealth.gov/Testing.
Arizona has more than 100 Test to Treat sites that offer testing and, if someone is positive, can prescribe and dispense antivirals on the spot to those for whom these treatments are recommended. You can find Test to Treat locations, most of them walk-in pharmacy clinics, listed with other therapeutics providers at azhealth.gov/FindTreatment.
A resource at azhealth.gov/TestedPositive has easy-to-follow instructions on what to do if you test positive. Isolate yourself for at least five days, either from the start of symptoms or from the positive test if you have no symptoms. Remain isolated, except for going to medical appointments, until you are symptom-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication. Be sure to wear a mask, wash your hands thoroughly, and maintain physical distance from others.
Viruses adapt to continue spreading, and the one that causes COVID-19 is no exception. The best way to prevent illness and reduce the spread is staying up-to-date on your vaccines and taking precautions. Masks, maintaining physical distance, staying home if you are sick, and proper handwashing are among the steps you’ll find at azhealth.gov/COVID19. I encourage you to pay close attention to CDC recommendations, recommendations from your local health department, and how you view the risk to yourself and those around you.