Arizona sees over 4,000 virus cases for 1st time since July
PHOENIX — Arizona on Nov. 19 reported 4,123 additional known COVID-19 cases, the most in a single day since July.
The Department of Health Services also reported 19 additional deaths due to the coronavirus outbreak as the overall death toll rose to 6,384. The state's case total increased to 287,225.
Arizona last topped 4,000 new cases in July during a summer surge that made the state a national hot spot after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed business closings and stay-home restrictions.
Arizona's outbreak lessened in August and September after local governments implemented masking mandates and Ducey instituted restrictions on some businesses.
The virus surged again in October and into November, with over 41,000 new cases reported since Nov. 1. State and public health officials cite school and business reopenings and public weariness with anti-virus precautions.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations continue to increase, with just under 1,800 reported as of Wednesday. That is about three times as many as the state had in September and about half as many as at the summer surge's peak.
Ducey on Wednesday warned that coronavirus cases are increasing at an alarming rate but the Republican governor stopped short of implementing any major new virus prevention restrictions or imposing a statewide mask mandate, as Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman have urged.
"I want people to wear masks. Masks work," Ducey said during a COVID—19 briefing. He noted that about 90% of the state's population is already under mask mandates imposed by county and local officials.
U.S. Sen.-elect Mark Kelly on Thursday got a grim briefing from advisers on the status of Arizona's virus outbreak. The Democrat is expected to be sworn in early next month.
Dr. Joe Gerard, a health policy expect at Arizona State University who has been tracking virus cases, said the trends are ominous for hospitals and the staff who work in them. He noted that new case counts, test positivity and hospital usage are the highest since June and appear sure to head even higher.
"When you think about how strained our hospitals are, they're in a really difficult position right now," Gerard said. "These conditions again are expected to deteriorate.'
Gerard's comments were echoed by Ann-Marie Alameddin, president & CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said hospitals are again facing shortages of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment and are still hampered by staffing shortages that can't be alleviated this time because so many states are seeing surges in virus cases.
"This has been a really long haul for these front-line workers and if the staffing shortages continue it just becomes a critical issue," Alameddin said.
Kelly also heard from business leaders, the mayor of Flagstaff and an executive who heads the organization representing the state's cities and towns about what kind of help is needed from the federal government. Kelly promised to use the briefing to help Arizona when he is in Congress.
"We've got a serious public health crisis, and it's worsening, and an economic crisis," Kelly said. "And both of these things have been made worse by a crisis of leadership."
Ducey said a statewide mandate was not necessary but that the state would issue an an emergency order for wearing masks in schools and on school buses, provide COVID-19 tests at airports in Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson, and allocate $25 million to bolster hospital staffing.
The steps taken so far by Ducey in response to the current surge won't keep Arizona from experiencing a hospital space crisis in December, former state Department of Health Services said in a blog post. "Get ready folks."
The number of reported infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
According to data from The COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University analyzed by The Associated Press, rolling seven-day averages of daily new cases and testing positivity rate in Arizona rose over the past two week while the average for daily deaths declined.
The average of daily new cases rose from 1,353 on Nov. 4 to 2,563 on Wednesday as the testing positivity average went from 11.7% to 16.2%, and the daily deaths average went from 22 to 20.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.