Arizona Reports Most New COVID-19 Cases In 3 Months

Published: Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 4:33pm
Updated: Friday, November 6, 2020 - 7:59am
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Arizona’s Department of Health Services reported 2,135 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest number the state has seen in more than three months. The last time the state reported more than 2,000 new cases in a day was Aug. 1. But DHS is not recommending any changes from Arizona businesses beyond the health measures already in place.

DHS in early August released benchmarks for businesses to reopen. Those benchmarks rate the spread of the virus in each of the state's 15 counties "minimal," "moderate," or "substantial" based on the number of cases per 100,000 residents, percentage of tests reported positive, and number of hospital visits for COVID-like illness. Since late August, Maricopa County has met the moderate transmission benchmark for businesses. But Maricopa County is now seeing substantial transmission levels of cases per 100,000 and is trending upward on the other two metrics.

“What we would encourage Arizonans to do is to take steps now because we are starting to see those benchmarks move up," DHS director Dr. Cara Christ told KJZZ. “We need everybody to not let their guard down and to remain vigilant, to wear a mask when they’re out in public, to stay 6 feet from people they do not live with, and to wash their hands frequently. Those are the best prevention methods we have right now.”

Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director Will Humble said Thursday it is imperative that mitigation be used in order to keep people safe and schools open.

“We don’t have to shut down schools if we make some sensible decisions about coming down on the bars, and the restaurants and the night clubs that are cheating on the mitigation measures, and if we were to put in a face covering mandate that has teeth," Humble said.

Humble also says hospitals are not yet overwhelmed by the increase in cases, but cites what happened in June when numbers spiked and warns that Arizona could experience déjà vu. 

The state reports nine of 15 counties have reached substantial transmission by at least one metric. Three counties — Yuma, Gila and Graham — are now in the substantial level on two metrics.

The state's business guidelines say when a county reaches substantial transmission in all three metrics, gyms, theaters, water parks, bars and nightclubs must close. But Christ said even if counties move into the substantial category on all three benchmarks, business closures will be a last resort.

"There's a lot of different strategies that could be put in place once you are substantial," Christ said.

Christ said the department is receiving about 30 complaints per day about businesses not complying with health guidelines and is investigating those claims.

Christ said she believes the health strategies already in place in Arizona are helping to control the spread of the virus. She said Arizona isn’t seeing explosive growth like it saw in early summer, but that doesn’t mean the spread won’t speed up in coming weeks.

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