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Health Experts Link Rise In Arizona COVID Cases To End Of Stay-At-Home Order

With new day by day coronavirus instances rising in no less than two dozen states, an explosion of recent infections in Arizona is stretching some hospitals and alarming public well being specialists who hyperlink the surge in instances to the state’s lifting of a stay-at-home order a month in the past.

Arizona has emerged as one of many nation’s latest coronavirus sizzling spots, with the weekly common of day by day instances more than doubling from two weeks in the past. The whole variety of folks hospitalized is climbing, too.

Over the previous week, Arizona has seen a mean of greater than 1,300 new COVID-19 instances every day.

After the state’s largest hospital system warned a few shortage of ICU beds, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, pushed again on claims that the well being care system might quickly be overwhelmed.

“The entire time we’ve been focused on a possible worst-case scenario with surge capacity for hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators,” Ducey told reporters on Thursday. “Those are not needed or necessary right now.”

While he acknowledged a spike in constructive instances, Ducey mentioned a second stay-at-home order was “not under discussion.”

“We put the stay-at-home order there so we could prepare for what we are going through,” he mentioned.

Some states have reopened extra slowly with a set of particular benchmarks for various areas, however Arizona took a extra aggressive strategy.

The state started easing restrictions on companies in early May and lifted its statewide lockdown order after May 15. Under Arizona’s reopening plan, companies are suggested to observe federal steerage on social distancing.

There can also be no requirement for everybody to put on masks in public.

Public well being specialists agree: The timing of this spike displays the state’s reopening.

“Perhaps, Arizona will be a warning sign to other areas,” mentioned Katherine Ellingson, an epidemiologist on the University of Arizona. “We never had that consistent downward trend that would signal it’s time to reopen and we have everything in place to do it safely.”

Before Arizona lifted its stay-at-home order, solely about 5% of COVID-19 checks registered as constructive. On Monday, that quantity was around 16%.

A slower reopening provides public well being companies time to establish whether or not instances are rising after which reply with contact tracing and isolating those that are contaminated.

“With a fast, rapid reopening, we don’t have the time to mobilize those resources,” mentioned Ellingson.

Maricopa County, dwelling to about 60% of the state’s inhabitants, has ramped up contact tracing in latest weeks, however it might not have sufficient capability if the surge in instances continues.

Dr. Peter Hotez mentioned the spike in Arizona, in addition to in components of Texas corresponding to Houston, Dallas and Austin, is the consequence of eradicating restrictions too shortly and with no public well being system that may preserve tempo.

“It was just ‘open it up’ and then more or less business as usual, with a little bit of window dressing,” mentioned Hotez, the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “This is not an abstract number of cases. We’re seeing people pile into intensive care units.”

Arizona’s governor has additionally confronted criticism from the mayors of Arizona’s two greatest cities for not putting in extra stringent necessities.

“There is a pandemic and it’s spreading uncontrollably,” mentioned Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, a Democrat. Ducey, she mentioned, “is just putting up his hands and saying ‘the spread is happening and we just have to go about our business.’”

And the governor’s govt order forbids native governments from implementing their very own further measures, which provides to Romero’s frustration. Texas has an analogous measure.

“What he did was pretty much tie the hands of mayors and public health officials,” Romero mentioned.

Arizona’s hospital business has tried to tamp down fears that it’s on the verge of a disaster. Hospitals are nonetheless performing elective surgical procedures.

“It’s very unfortunate because hospitals right now in Arizona are quite busy with elective procedures,” mentioned Saskia Popescu, a Phoenix-based epidemiologist with George Mason University. “You throw in increasing cases of COVID, and that’s going to very much stress your hospital systems.”

Phoenix’s triple-digit summer season temperatures truly might gas the unfold of the virus. People forgo out of doors actions and retreat to air-conditioned indoor areas, the place the danger of transmitting the virus goes up considerably.

“My concern is we’re going to see a lot more people in close quarters for prolonged periods of time,” Popescu mentioned.

Since the stay-at-home order was lifted, Popescu and others say they’ve seen folks returning to a pre-pandemic mindset, neglecting to put on masks or preserve social distance. Videos of crowded bars have solely propelled these fears.

On Thursday, nonetheless, Arizona’s prime physician burdened there have been additionally risks to maintaining the state on lockdown, together with the psychological well being results of loneliness and isolation.

“We know that it’s in the community. We are not going to be able to stop the spread. And so we can’t stop living as well,” mentioned Dr. Cara Christ, well being director for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

But Dr. Quinn Snyder, an emergency medication doctor in Mesa, Arizona, mentioned there must be extra constant messaging on public well being measures like sporting masks.

“Frankly, I just think a wholesale reevaluation of where we’re at is critical right now, but I can tell you that we’re not doing nearly enough,” mentioned Snyder, who has seen the uptick in severely in poor health COVID-19 sufferers firsthand.

“If we proceed to move down this path, the virus will press our well being care amenities past capability, the place we’re going to need to be making powerful selections like who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t.”

This story is a part of a reporting partnership between NPR and Kaiser Health News. 

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