While most of the United States has seen a steady decline in new coronavirus cases recently, Arizona was an outlier.
The state has not been inundated with another wave of the virus, but public health experts are concerned about a steady increase in cases and hospitalizations. As of Tuesday, Arizona’s daily average was up 19 percent in the past two weeks, the second largest increase in the nation over that period after Wyoming. Only four other states reported increases of more than 10 percent during this period: Washington, Hawaii, Arkansas and Oregon.
Arizona’s new daily fall load is 10 per 100,000 people, still below the national average of 14 per 100,000. In the past 14 days, the country has seen a 26 percent decrease in new coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times, and 27 states have seen a 15 percent or greater decrease in new coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database.
Will Humble, a former state health director who heads the Arizona Public Health Association, attributed the surge in new cases to several factors, including a spring influx of travelers and the spread of a variant of the virus first discovered in the UK. Variant B.1.1.7 was associated with increased transferability.
Mr Humble said the Arizona surge likely wouldn’t result in a significant increase in deaths, which have declined in the state. Most older adults and other people in the state who are at increased risk of developing serious illnesses have already been vaccinated, while new infections tend to occur in people in their twenties, thirties, and forties who are more likely to be milder.
Mr Humble said the surge in cases now has “very different public health implications” than it did a few months ago, when far fewer people were vaccinated.
“We’re not going to have the kind of deadly experiences we’d have in December, January or February,” said Humble. Even so, there has been “a remarkable upward movement” in hospital and intensive care units.
Arizona was slow to introduce restrictions last summer and was quick to remove them as falls have skyrocketed and ICU beds are nearly full. From early June to mid-July, the state reported new cases at the highest rate in the country for its size, peaking at 3,800 per day.
In January, Arizona again had its highest daily incidence rate in a while. At one point it was averaging over 8,000 a day, more than double that of the summer summit.
Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order in March that lifted all Covid-19 restrictions in the state and prevented local governments from issuing mask mandates.
Mr Humble said politics might have made Arizona more vulnerable: “There’s no slowdown here at all, and it hasn’t been for months,” he said.
Approximately 41 percent of Arizonans received a first dose of the vaccine, and 30 percent were fully vaccinated, just below the national average. However, the picture varies greatly from country to country. Three of Arizona’s 15 counties vaccinated more than 40 percent of residents, but five vaccinated less than 30 percent as of Tuesday.
Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health, said last month that the initial rush for vaccines had slowed significantly. “Before, vaccine appointments were made almost immediately as soon as they were available,” she said. “The time has come now that it is possible to make an appointment on the same day at practically every state location.”