Gilbert update for May 13: County doing large expansion for contact tracing

Here are the coronavirus updates to know this week. (Graphic by Community Impact Newspaper)
Here are the coronavirus updates to know this week. (Graphic by Community Impact Newspaper)

Here are the coronavirus updates to know this week. (Graphic by Community Impact Newspaper)

The coronavirus is affecting the entire world, including the town of Gilbert. Here are the Gilbert, Maricopa County and statewide updates that residents need to know.

This story will be frequently updated with outbreak-related news and links to other in-depth coverage.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has launched a large scaling-up of its ongoing communicable disease investigation and contact tracing program to address the increased number of cases resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and increased testing.

Public Health is adding to its standing team of 16 epidemiologist investigators who investigate infectious diseases, like mumps or pertussis, and conduct contact tracing efforts for those cases. It has reassigned qualified internal staff and doing additional hiring, including adding 14 new staff members this week.

“Thanks to a huge effort from multiple parts of Maricopa County government, we have been able to condense a hiring process from an average of 45 days to 10 days to respond our community’s needs,” Pulbic Health Executive Director Marcy Flanagan said in a release. “Our goal with this plan is to ensure that by July 1, Public Health has the capacity to contact 400-500 cases per day, seven days a week.”


When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the department opens an investigation. Trained epidemiology investigators reach out to cases and conduct a thorough interview, which uncovers all the places and people the case was in contact with starting from 48 hours before their symptoms started.

The investigator then provides the case with detailed instructions for infection control for themselves and their household, managing their health, and when to seek additional care.

They will also be asked to enroll in a secure electronic system to track their symptoms for at least 10 days after symptoms started so Public Health can tell them when they no longer need to isolate.

“Starting as early as next week, once we receive confirmation of a positive diagnostic test, we will send cases a text message with a link to a survey that will collect their initial symptoms and provide tailored instructions to follow until they get a call from a Public Health investigator,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Public Health’s medical director for disease control, in the release. “This will ensure that the case knows to remain isolated from others and help us to expedite the investigation.”

Department investigators will not ask for personal health information or financial information through the survey. If someone receives a text asking for personal health information or financial information, people should not click any links and should not share their sensitive information.

Grand Canyon reopening

The National Park Service is set to begin reopening the Grand Canyon on a limited basis.

The South Rim’s south entrance will be reopened from 6-10 a.m. May 15-18 for limited day use accesss. Six viewpoints along East Desert View Drive will be open, two picnic areas and some restrooms will be opened.

Other areas will remain closed, including Grand Canyon Village. Commercial services are closed, and no overnight accommodations are available. Visitors must bring their own food and water and leave by the end of the day.

Grant to food banks

A $500,000 grant from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund is being made to the Association of Arizona Food Banks/Arizona Food Bank, Gov. Doug Ducey announced May 13.

The state set up the fund to provide financial support to organizations working to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in Arizona. It has collected nearly $8.23 million to date.

Member organizations of the association supply a network of nearly 1,000 food pantries and organizations in all 15 counties in Arizona.

Case counts

The six ZIP codes that cover Gilbert have 227 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services. That is an increase of three from the previous day.


The Arizona Department of Health Services reported May 13 that COVID-19 confirmed cases have crossed 12,000 in the state. An additional 440 cases have brought the state to 12,176. The state has had 594 deaths from COVID-19, up 32 from the previous day.

In Maricopa County, there are 6,112 positive cases and 271 deaths as of May 13.

Earlier updates

Information from May 12 can be found here.

Information from May 11 can be found here.

Information from May 8 can be found here.

Information from May 7 can be found here.

Information from May 6 can be found here.

Information from May 5 can be found here.

Information from May 4 can be found here.

Information from May 1 can be found here.

Information from April 30 can be found here.

Information from April 29 can be found here.

Information from April 28 can be found here.

Information from April 27 can be found here.

Information from April 24-26 can be found here.

Information from April 23 can be found here.

Information from April 22 can be found here.

Information from April 21 can be found here.

Information from April 20 can be found here.

Information from April 13-19 can be found here.

Information from April 6-12 can be found here.

Information from March 30-April 5 can be found
here.

Information from March 27-29 can be found here.

Information from March 24-26 can be found here.

Information from March 20-23 can be found here.

Information from March 12-20 can be found here.

Community Impact Newspaper Editor Alexa D'Angelo contributed to this report.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.