Positive COVID-19 test results have doubled in the past few weeks in Arizona, leading experts to believe the state is becoming a hotspot, according to ABC News.
Data from the New York Times shows that, in a seven-day span from early to mid-June, Arizona reported more than 1,000 new daily cases five times.
The spike in cases comes a few weeks after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted the state’s stay-at-home orders. Before the state reopened, it was seeing an average of 400 new cases a day. On June 16, the state had its highest number yet with 2,392 new cases.
As businesses and restaurants reopen, residents are no longer required to wear face masks. But Ducey said it’s more important to focus on hospitals’ capacity for COVID-19 patients instead of implementing tactics to slow the virus’ spread in Arizona, according to ABC News.
“That’s what’s most important when there is a rise in cases,” Ducey said. “Because a rise in cases could result in a rise of severe illness that requires hospitalization. I want every Arizonan to be able to have the medical care and comfort and resources necessary, and today we are able to provide that.”
ABC News reported that the state’s largest hospital system, Banner Health, said earlier this month that its intensive care units are “nearly full and will soon exceed capacity.”
The Arizona Department of Health released a statement on June 6 that said 24% of ICU beds and 20% of inpatient beds were available statewide. The department said that while COVID-19 hospitalizations were rising, non-COVID patients occupied the majority of inpatient and ICU beds:
- 78% of occupied inpatient beds are non-COVID patients
- 67% of occupied ICU patients do not have COVID-19
“With increased cases, COVID-19 hospitalizations have also increased, with more than 1,200 COVID-19 inpatients reported in Arizona hospitals,” the statement said. “These increases, while expected, indicate continuing community spread of COVID-19 and underscore the importance of COVID-19 prevention measures all Arizonans should take.”
University of Arizona’s Dr. Farshad Marvasti told CNBC that residents not wearing face coverings have contributed to the surge in COVID-19 infections. He said he believes that if Arizona wants to keep its economy open, the state will have to start requiring masks in public.
“The cost of staying open is for us to have to have more restrictions, and one of those restrictions that I think is going to be critical is mandatory masks by all employees,” Marvasti said. “And then really making it a very strong recommendation, if not a requirement, for folks going into closed settings such as restaurants and other venues like that to wear a mask.”
Despite Ducey’s stance that the state should focus on hospital preparedness, the Arizona Department of Health emphasized that residents should take precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“As this pandemic continues to spread across the world, the country, and our state, we continue to see increased cases in Arizona,” ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said. “With the phased reopening, it’s important for Arizonans to understand that COVID-19 is widespread and still circulating in our community. We urge every Arizonan, especially Arizonans in routine contact with our older residents or those at high risk of complications, to take precautions to prevent the further transmission of COVID-19.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Arizona has had almost 30,000 COVID-19 infections and more than 1,000 total deaths, as of June 11.