10 June 2020 Blog Post: COVID-19 Update in the State of Arizona

Many of you may have read or begun to hear the press reports of rising COVID-19 cases in Arizona. Hospitals there have been advised activate their coronavirus emergency plans as cases have spiked in recent weeks following reopening.

“Ideally, we would put in some interventions now,” said Will Humble, who formerly served as the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. He notes that the state is on such a poor trajectory that it will need field hospitals due to overtaxed hospitals by the beginning of July.

What is interesting is that the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has probably the most sophisticated data dashboard of any I have seen thus far. Other states, municipalities and cities would benefit from having such easy, well annotated and comprehensive information at their fingertips. Are you listening CDC?

From graphs available on the AHDS website, it is visually apparent why Will Humble has such a dire prediction for Arizona (Figure 1). Cases were essentially flat from mid April until late May. Beginning May 26th, cases then began to accelerate. The graph plotted by AHDS helpfully emphasizes daily case numbers above 600 with a darker red. On June 2nd the state had 1168 new cases, its highest total thus far.

Arizona’s initial response to COVID-19 was with a declaration of a public health emergency on March 12th but without plans to limit large gatherings at that time. On March 19th, restaurant service was limited and counties with cases of confirmed COVID-19 were required to close bars, theaters, and gyms. On March 30th, a statewide stay at home order was issued, barring Arizonans from leaving their residences except for food, medicine, and other essentials.

There were 197 cases reported in Arizona on March 30th rising to 272 on April 13th, 418 on April 20th, 431 on April 28th, and 492 on May 4th.

May 4th is significant as this is the day that Governor Ducey announced a partial reopening. Barbershops, nail and hair salons reopened May 8th. Restaurants opened dining rooms May 11th. Pools and gyms opened May 13th and the stay-at-home order was lifted May 15th. Of interest, on May 6th, researchers at Arizona State University and University of Arizona were instructed to halt their work on a public model for COVID-19. Their model had recommended against any reopening before the end of May.

Since the state’s stay-at-home order ended on May 15, and its cases have increased 115% and the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators have quadrupled (side note: data from New York State has suggested that 86% of COVID-19 patients requiring a ventilator ultimately die from the disease).

For what it is worth, Arizona Governor Ducey last week told a press briefing that the increase in cases was to be expected due to a rise in testing. But a simple glace at the ADHS data shows that this simply isn’t true (Figure 2). Indeed, testing rates rose sharply in early May, peaking in mid May but they have actually dropped off about 20% since that time, So the record 1168 new cases on June 2nd was found among 8283 tests. But on May 16th, there were 486 cases from the 10896 tests that were performed.

So in spite of having a remarkable data dashboard, well researched and compiled information, the State of Arizona is embroiled in a public health crisis entirely of its own making.

𝗦𝗢𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 π—’π˜‚π—Ώ π—‘π—²π˜„π˜€π—Ήπ—²π˜π˜π—²π—Ώ

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