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Maricopa County health official says spread of coronavirus has increased

(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County’s top public health official said Friday that coronavirus cases in metro Phoenix have increased and that it’s not necessarily due to a testing jump.

Marcy Flanagan, the county’s public health executive director, said there are signs that community spread of COVID-19 is growing beyond what was expected because of the state’s reopening.

“We are starting to see some indicators that the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Maricopa County and we have enough information to know these increases are not due to just an increase in testing that is occurring,” Flanagan said during a press conference.

Maricopa County has averaged about 500 new cases over the past four days, including 503 cases on Thursday.

Flanagan said those daily case numbers are higher than normal, even on days when Arizona Testing Blitz numbers have been taken into account.

Hospitalizations in the county due to COVID-19 have also increased, while ICU bed availability has decreased.

Positive test percentage numbers are also increasing and is worrisome, according to Flanagan.

“All of these indicators together tell us there is an increased spread in the community,” Flanagan said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday doubled down on his approach to handling the pandemic, saying he believes his office and public health officials have chosen the best course of action in handling the virus outbreak.

Arizona reported 1,579 new coronavirus cases Friday morning, the most ever in a daily update, and the state’s death toll for the pandemic eclipsed 1,000.

The state moved into the first phase of reopening on May 16.

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