PHOENIX — The number of coronavirus cases continue to spike in Arizona.
According to numbers released by the state's Department of Health Services, Arizona has recorded the second highest number of cases in a single day with more than 22,000 cases now reported. That is up more than 1,000 cases from yesterday. The state is also reporting 40 new deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 981.
Wendy Smith-Reeve, an analyst for ABC15 and also the former Director of the Arizona Division of Emergency management says the significant increase in the number of cases is concerning to her.
ABC15 data analyst Garrett Archer who has been analyzing the numbers said this is three consecutive days now of consistently high numbers of positive cases and deaths recorded by the state.
"We're sort of in that situation of one record after another. You don't want to be in a situation where you're setting a record every single day," said Archer.
Health experts say there are several factors that could explain the high numbers.
First, the end of the stay-at home orders, followed by the lack of social distancing by people. As soon as the orders were lifted, ABC15 captured video of crowded restaurants, with people not following any of the safety guidelines recommended by state and federal officials.
Second, the availability of more testing, and third, as the state's health department director Dr. Cara Christ explains in her blog posting this week, the numbers you see on the state's dashboard now include presumed positive cases along with those who tested positive for antibodies of COVID-19.
Smith-Reeve anticipated seeing those numbers going up.
"I think that in 2-3 weeks we are going to see another big spike as a result of the protests," she predicted.
Multiple models Archer has been looking at still indicate Arizona could hit its peak of hospitalizations on June 11, which is next week.
Will Humble with the Arizona Public Health Association said while concerning, there was no need to panic yet.
"I'm not freaking out yet because we still have plenty of hospital capacity, I shouldn't use the word plenty but adequate hospital capacity. We are no where close to becoming the next New York city or Northern Italy," said Humble.
The data shows the biggest spike in the number of cases in outlying counties and rural areas, with Yuma County, Santa Cruz County, and Mojave County seeing big increases.
"In these areas you don't have a curve at all, you just see a big up shoot," said Archer.
Humble said that was in line with trends across the nation, of rural areas seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
He speculated that part of the reason could be an increase in testing for those areas.
"From what I've heard, that has a lot to do with increased testing because really a couple weeks ago--Yuma had been really starved for test kits that has been improving," said Humble.
Smith-Reeve added that the increasing numbers would impact all Arizonans by delaying the state's ability to enter Phase 2 of the Governor's reopening plan, which allowed for larger gatherings of 50 people, and the opening of bars.
State, county, and federal health officials advise people continue engaging in safe practices of social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.