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A day in the life of a Mohave County public health nurse

Denise Burley, director of the Mohave County Department of Public Health, continues to give county supervisors twice-weekly updates about coronavirus cases in the county. (Miner file photo)

Denise Burley, director of the Mohave County Department of Public Health, continues to give county supervisors twice-weekly updates about coronavirus cases in the county. (Miner file photo)

KINGMAN – At a May 21 meeting with the Mohave County Board of Supervisors regarding COVID-19, county Health Director Denise Burley shed some light on the work of the nurses and epidemiologists working in the county Department of Public Health.

The goal of her presentation was to explain where the COVID-19 data comes from and how the department is conducting the case count.

“What occurs on a nurse’s or an epidemiologist’s day,” Burley said, posing the question.

The nurses are working with MEDSIS, a secure database that holds information about all cases of communicable diseases in Arizona. Those cases are being reported by labs and doctors from all over the state.

County public health nurses and epidemiology staff are looking at every single MEDSIS report for Mohave County, adding information to make the entries more accurate, Burley said.

Burley said public health nurses are now starting vaccinations for schools and can no longer focus exclusively on COVID-19, the virus that has killed 31 county residents.

There is also a big push for coronavirus testing in long-term care facilities, which will also require staff and their time, said temporary county epidemiologist Mary Schumacher, who attended the meeting by telephone.

“Here’s our typical day,” Schumacher said. “We take calls from nursing homes asking about how to cohort (group) residents with COVID, review lab information and enter (information into) MEDSIS. We interview cases, call them and collect information, take nasal swabs to do tests.”

There is always new information and rules to review, Schumacher said. And people have questions, or need a letter from a supervisor to give to their employer.

Once again, Burley attempted to address questions on common differences between the state and county COVID statistics.

Sometimes, she explained, the case is being transferred, when, for example, it turns out that the patient lives in California. Or, she said, an employee can find a duplicate and delete the case. There are also corrections, and individual cases can shift back and forth between confirmed and probable.

Burley finished the presentation raising a discussion on further actions.

Should the county focus on the long-term care facilities now, Burley asked, or should the county focus on certain age groups.

Another option would be to focus on preventative measures and education in the community, she noted.

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