Like most states across the U.S., Arizona is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and its positive test rate ahead of a worrisome winter flu season. As of Sunday morning, there are now 231,149 confirmed cases in the state and 5,827 deaths — but those numbers alone don’t tell the entire story.
At the worst point during this pandemic so far — for Arizona, in June and July — the state was averaging more than 3,000 new cases per day. On October 1, the daily average was 480 new cases and, as of Sunday morning, nearly 800 new daily cases, according to ABC15 data analyst Garrett Archer.
“We are starting to see at least a steady pickup in that average increase,” Archer said, “In fact, only a week ago, it was about 500 [average new daily cases], so it’s rising at about a 20 percent rate right now.” For the second week, Arizona’s positive testing rate is also above 5 percent. Still, despite the increase in cases, Garrett said and state data shows hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively flat.
“We are looking at, right now, case increases that are coming from demographics that are less likely to have to be hospitalized and take up those resources,” he said.
On September 24, Governor Doug Ducey said during a news conference to expect a rise in cases as schools reopened and that he would not impose any further restrictions or closures of businesses.
“Arizona’s open,” Ducey said. “We are not going to be — due to a gradual rise in cases — be making any dramatic changes.”
Still, Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director and former Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble said there are things Ducey can and should do to mitigate another potential outbreak, including imposing a statewide face-covering mandate and increased enforcement to make sure businesses are following health and safety rules.
“There’s a whole bunch of CARES Act money just sitting to be used for intervention purposes,” Humble said. “That could be used for the state to get contracts out to county health departments so there would be local folks that could follow up on these complaint investigations and do compliance and enforcement.”
Humble said he agrees with reopening schools for in-person learning because, as of now, the benefits outweigh the risk. Still, he warns if the numbers continue trending in the wrong direction the state may be left with no other option but to close them down once again.