White House report suggests Arizona lacking in COVID-19 mitigation

Dec 8, 2020, 11:20 AM | Updated: 2:45 pm

PHOENIX – A recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report suggests that Arizona isn’t doing enough to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

“New hospital admissions in Arizona are rapidly increasing and mitigation must be increased,” the Nov. 29 report says.

The report, which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, says Arizona is far from alone in seeing COVID-19 spreading at alarming rates.

The state was actually in the middle of the pack on several measures, according to the report. Arizona had the 26th-highest rate of new cases and the 25th-highest rate of test positivity.

At the time of the report, Arizona’s rate of 370 cases for 100,000 population exceeded the national average of 349.

“Arizona has seen an increase in new cases and an increase in test positivity,” the report says. “Arizona is experiencing a full resurgence equal to the summer surge but without the needed aggressive mitigation across the state.”

The Center for Public Integrity on Tuesday distributed the task force reports for all 50 states. The recommendations for Arizona mirrored those in the reports for other states facing similar COVID-19 situations.

The report doesn’t specifically address details of Arizona’s current strategies, but it says “state mitigation efforts remain inadequate” in many areas of the country.

“If state and local policies do not reflect the seriousness of the situation, all public health officials must alert the state population directly,” the report says.

“It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health.”

The report also says anybody under 40 who gathered with people outside their immediate household for Thanksgiving should assume they were infected.

“Most likely, you will not have symptoms; however, you are dangerous to others and you must isolate away from anyone at increased risk for severe disease and get tested immediately,” the reports says.

Widespread testing is cited as a key to reversing the trends.

“The silent community spread that precedes and continues to drive these surges can only be identified and interrupted through proactive and focused testing for both the identification of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals,” the report says.

Information about coronavirus testing at more than 500 locations statewide can be found on the Arizona Department of Health Services website.

In addition to more testing, the report says Americans need to change their behavior.

“Ensure masks at all times in public; increase physical distancing through significant reduction in capacity in public and private indoor spaces, including restaurants and bars; and ensure every American understands the clear risks of ANY family or friend interactions outside of their immediate household,” the report says.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has not implemented any significant mitigation efforts since businesses closed under his June executive order were allowed to reopen starting in August. Impacted businesses in all counties were cleared to reopen by Oct. 1 when COVID-19 spread fell under state-mandated benchmarks.

The impacted businesses — indoor gyms, bars operating as restaurants, theaters, water parks and tubing venues — won’t be in danger of being forced to close again unless all three state-tracked metrics reach the substantial spread range in their counties. Most counties, including Maricopa, have seen the numbers reach the substantial range in two metrics.

Even if all three metrics exceed the substantial benchmarks, state health officials have said measures other than closures were possible.

Ducey has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate and has not further restricted capacity or moved to shut down businesses where people gather. He’s maintained that local mask regulations and requirements in certain venues statewide are sufficient and cover 90% of Arizona.

He has instead focused his recent policy on helping businesses stay open – such as making it easier for restaurants to expand their outdoor service areas – and funding and staffing hospitals to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 patients.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported a record 12,314 new coronavirus cases and 23 additional deaths on Tuesday, putting the state’s totals at 378,157 COVID-19 infections and 6,973 fatalities.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospital inpatients was 3,157 on Monday. That’s a 37% increase since Thanksgiving, when it was 2,301, and the most since July 17.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients in ICU beds was 744 on Monday. That’s a 40% increase since Thanksgiving, when it was 532, and the most since July 29.

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White House report suggests Arizona lacking in COVID-19 mitigation