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Pima County clarifies COVID-19 emergency alert

A look inside the unit for COVID-19, coronavirus patients at Tucson Medical Center.
Posted at 12:54 PM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 14:58:57-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — A day after the Pima County Office of Emergency Management issued a public health warning, the county communications department is clarifying what that warning meant.

On Wednesday afternoon, the OEM issued an alert that said COVID-19 transmission is high, and area hospitals are "at capacity."

But on Thursday morning, the county says the alert was meant to spread the word about the public health advisory and mask mandate rules.

"The intent was to call more attention to the Health Advisory," the county said in a string of several tweets Thursday morning. "The Health Department asked that we also let people know the county’s hospitals are having to use the state surge line and implement their own surge plans to deal with the volume of patients. We in the Communications Office shortened that for the brief emergency alert we sent to say hospitals were 'at capacity.'"

"We should have given more thought to the fact that saying 'at capacity' could be interpreted by the media and the public that hospitals are full and no longer taking patients. That’s not true and not what we intended it to mean," the county said.

The county says anyone seeking care from hospitals will be able to get the care they need in Pima County, but the hospital system is still being "heavily taxed by the surge in COVID patients."

Health officials in Pima County say the clarification "should not be construed to mean that there is no public health emergency in Pima County. There is."