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Yuma and El Centro potentially future COVID-19 hotspots; Yuma’s peak on the way

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As cases double every eight days, social distancing is crucial in preventing community spread of the virus.

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - According to The New York Times, Yuma could be one of the next hot spots for a coronavirus outbreak.

In a report updated Thursday morning, The New York Times lists metro areas with the highest average daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases.

Yuma anchored in the top three spots, with El Centro not far behind.

The NY Times reports cases in Yuma have doubled every eight days.

Kevin Tunnell from the Yuma County Health Department said, “COVID-19 is here and it is continuing to community spread.”

From May 13 to May 20, positive cases jumped from 283 to 488, that’s 205 cases or a 72% increase in seven days.

“Yuma County is a little bit on a different trajectory than other areas around here. "

Arizona health experts expect Yuma COVID-19 cases to peak between the last week of May and the first week of June.

Yuma had a later start in testing, reporting the first COVID case on March 20.

Since then cases have climbed, reaching more than 500 as of Thursday.

But even with improved testing, Tunnell says the health department has been unsuccessful in tracing where people are contracting the virus.

“We knew that they had not been outside of Yuma County due to their report of not leaving the county. So we knew that they did not bring it in. And we could not verify that they had come in contact somebody that already had COVID.”

Whether or not Yuma is reopening too soon, Tunnell says only time will tell.

However, now is not the time for Yuma to let its guard down.

Tunnell added, “Yuma County can or can not be a hotspot and that's all predicated on how the community continues to move forward.”

The county’s numbers are relatively low compared to bigger cities, also noting positive cases are inclusive of the prison population.

Tunnell believes we can flatten the curve if the community continues to practice social distancing and wear masks in public.

“We’re starting to slowly open with guidance, we need to be very effective on how we do it or we can actually go right back around full circle and be right into a stay-at-home order again," Tunnell said.

The health department confirms people are recovering from COVID-19 in Yuma County.

However, reporting the numbers can be tough.

Tunnell said CDC guidelines require a person to be tested twice in 24-hours, both tests must come back negative for them to be considered “recovered”.

This could take multiple tests, depleting an already limited testing supply.

Arizona Coronavirus / Yuma County Coronavirus

Aziza Shuler

Aziza Shuler joined KYMA in March 2019 wearing many hats including the newest anchor and producer for FOX 9, as well as a multi-media journalist for KYMA.

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