PHOENIX - Arizona on Dec. 8 set a new daily record with over 12,300 additional known coronavirus cases as the number of hospitalized patients approached levels similar to the peak of last summer’s surge.
The Department of Health Services reported 12,314 additional known cases, eclipsing the previous record of 10,322 cases set Dec. 1 when officials said that day’s report was inflated by delayed reporting over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Arizona’s case total increased to 378,157. The state also reported 23 additional deaths, increasing that total to 6,973.
“Arizona does not have control of this virus,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said on a Twitter post that included advice to review routines, stay home if possible and to wear a mask whenever out.
Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the record case report, but they previously warned that Thanksgiving gatherings of more than one household would increase the virus’ already strong spread during the fall surge.
The state reported 1,567 additional known cases and no deaths on Monday, a day when reports typically are reduced due to weekend reporting delays, but the state reported over 5,000 additional known cases on five of the previous six days.
The state’s seven-day rolling average continued to climb in the past two weeks as have the rolling averages for daily deaths and daily COVID-19 testing positivity, a measure of community transmission.
The daily case average rose from 3,630 on Nov. 23 to 5,575 on Monday while the daily deaths average increased from 23.1 to 44.4 and the positivity average rose from 18.5% to 28.9%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project. That is nearly six times the benchmark suggested by the World Health Organization of 5%.
Arizona’s COVID-19-related hospitalizations as of Monday increased to 3,517, approaching the peak of approximately 3,500 in mid-July, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.
The dashboard indicated that 12% of all hospital beds and 10% of intensive care unit beds were available Monday, up from 10% and 8% respectively.
Hospital officials and public health experts have warned that the current surge will exceed the health system’s capacity.
Gov. Doug Ducey has imposed restrictions that closed some establishments and required distancing and other precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But he hasn’t ordered a statewide mask mandate, a new stay-home requirement, or curfews although many local governments have been imposing masking requirements.
The number of COVID-19 infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Statewide mask police tied to federal help, lawmaker suggests
With the spike in cases, an Arizona lawmaker is proposing a move to pressure state leaders to enact a mask mandate.
Representative Greg Stanton says federal COVID-19 relief funds should only be distributed to states and cities that have one.
Public health experts say that policy could push some leaders to implement a statewide mask mandate, but local business owners say the move could backfire and hurt the people who need help the most.
"It makes perfect sense to compel him to do the right thing by attaching money that he desperately needs to intervention purposes and that probably is the only way to get some of these policy interventions done," said Will Humble with the Arizona Public Health Association.
Public health experts support Stanton’s proposal. Staton proposed in part, “ ... because some local leaders, including Arizona’s Governor, have refused to acknowledge and embrace the most basic science, Congress must provide an economic incentive so that more states will adopt common-sense policies.”
Humble explains how that same thinking worked before.
"That’s how we got the 21-year-old drinking age years ago. It was tied to highway funds. And it’s a common thing for the federal government to do these kinds of things."
Small business owners in Stanton’s own district disagree, saying they’re desperate for federal funding, which shouldn’t be tied to policy.
"I think everybody’s doing it. For somebody to say if we don’t do a state mask mandate that they’re going to pull funds, that’s not acceptable to business owners like us," said Kristina Gwinn, owner of Sidelines Grill.
She’s been in business in Chandler for 18 years and is barely surviving financially right now, saying, "I made it because of the PPP. I want to be around for another 18 years. I have my children working here, and I’m very lucky."
Others, like teachers, hope Stanton’s call continues the conversation for more action from the state.
Marisol Garcia with the Arizona Education Association (AEA), says, "The AEA this summer and this winter has been asking and pleading with the governor to have a statewide plan ... If there was leadership trust or leadership with trust behind it, I think we might see behaviors significantly change."
FOX 10 reached out to the governor’s office for its response and emails have not been answered as of 4 p.m. Dec. 8.
Arizona is one of just 13 states that do not have a statewide mask policy, although many counties and cities have mask mandates in place.
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Monitor your health daily
FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus
Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ: azdhs.gov/coronavirus
On CoronavirusNOW.com, you'll find extensive coverage about COVID-19, including breaking news from around the country, exclusive interviews with health officials, and informative content from a variety of public health resources.
- Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers
- Coronavirus: Symptoms, testing and how to prepare amid growing COVID-19 outbreak
- How coronavirus differs from flu: Symptoms to watch for
Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu.
Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.
Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.
To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.
And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.
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