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Pima County chief medical officer reflects on Arizona’s one-year anniversary of first confirmed COVID-19 case

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Jan. 26, 2020 is a date not many people in Arizona may remember.

While typical tragic milestones in Arizona's history tend to freeze that moment in time to all the people who experienced it, that date simply marked the beginning of an issue that the Grand Canyon State continues to battle to this day.

Jan. 26, 2020 was the date Arizona reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19. That day, Arizona Department of Health Services shared that a Maricopa County resident who traveled to Wuhan, China tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A year later, Arizona has seen a total of 732,643 known cases and 12,448 related deaths.

In addition, schools have moved back and forth from hybrid and virtual learning, mask mandates have been implemented, restrictions and safety procedures have been put in place on businesses and the vaccine distribution process begun.

But now a year later, healthcare officials look back and reflect on the steps that they took to this point in their efforts to combat this pandemic.

"A year ago, I made the decision to stand up our virtual emergency operations command. Honestly, I thought I was overreacting. I thought maybe this wasn't going to be a big deal. But we had the Gem Show looming that weekend. We had these cases that were being identified in the Pacific Northwest. We had the case in Maricopa County. We were also painfully aware of what was going on in East Asia and Italy. Out of abundance of caution, we made that decision to operate and stand up the virtual emergency operations command," Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County's chief medical officer said. "Fast forward to today, can I believe we are one year at this? It is hard to believe."

On Tuesday, Garcia spoke with the media for a Q&A session about Pima County's COVID-19 situation.

On the anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Arizona, the chief medical officer shared his thoughts on what needs to happen to slow down the spread in Pima County.

"There have been many times when I have could see the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, my crystal ball has been wrong in those circumstances. What I can tell you what is different now - what I can tell you I am focused on is the vaccinations piece," Garcia said. "Because I actually think that is the only way we get out of this and be able to resume a much more normal-looking life."

After Pima County officially entered Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan this month, Garcia said their vaccination efforts will be key for Pima County to get back some normalcy.

"My hope is if we play all our cards right, by the end of the summer or beginning of the fall, we might even have a normal school year for my kids, for all our kids, for our grandparents who are not getting to visit with their families," he said. "I wish I could tell you we are almost done, but in some ways, we just hit the halfway point."

Arizona saw its first COVID-19 related death on March 20.

To register for a vaccine appointment in Pima County, call 520-222-0119.

For more information, visit webcms.pima.gov.

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Anthony Victor Reyes

Anthony Victor Reyes is the lead digital content producer at News 4 Tucson. The award-winning journalist previously worked as a community reporter in Jasper County, Iowa.

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