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 Monday, Arizona’s daily average had risen 21 percent in the past two weeks, linking it to Wyoming for the largest increase in the nation over that period. Only three other states reported increases of more than 10 percent during this period: Washington, Oregon and Missouri.
Arizona’s new daily fall load is 10 per 100,000 people, still below the national average of 15 per 100,000. In the past 14 days, the country has seen a 26 percent decrease in new coronavirus cases, and 28 states have seen a 15 percent or more decrease in new coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database.
Will Humble, the former state health director who now heads the Arizona Public Health Association, said the surge in new cases could be attributed to several factors, including a spring influx of travelers and the spread of a variant of the virus first discovered in the UK. The variant B.1.1.7. Has been linked to 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 others in the state who are at increased risk of serious illness have already been vaccinated, while the majority of new cases are in their twenties, thirties, and forties who are more likely to that they have milder cases.
Mr Humble said the surge in cases had “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 was “a remarkable upward movement in the beds of the general ward and also in the intensive care unit.”
Arizona was slow to put restrictions in place last summer and was quick to remove them as falls have skyrocketed and ICU beds are nearly full. For over a month, 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 may have made Arizona more vulnerable: “There is no mitigation here at all, and it has not been in months,” he said.
About 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 six vaccinated less than 30 percent as of Monday.
Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health, told reporters 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.”