Global and national COVID-19 cases have increased over the last several weeks, and now that trend is occurring in Arizona, too. While our state is not currently experiencing a surge to the degree other locations are experiencing right now, we have recently seen a shift of COVID-19 spread in the state in the wrong direction. During this time, the Arizona Department of Health Services remains on high alert and in active communication with our public health partners at the local and federal level, and with our hospital and healthcare providers. We continue to focus on containing the spread of the virus, ensuring adequate care is available for those who contract the disease, and saving lives.
Over the past few weeks in Arizona, reported cases and percent positivity have been increasing.
- While the statewide metrics still meet the benchmarks for the moderate category of COVID-19 spread for business and school opening, we are seeing the rates and percent positivity increase in many counties across all regions of the state.
- The statewide percent positivity, which gives us information about community spread, has increased from 3.9% a few weeks ago to 5.5% last week. This is an early indicator of increased COVID-19 spread throughout Arizona communities.
- However, our hospitals currently report capacity in their inpatient and intensive care unit beds and ample ventilator availability. And, our COVID-like Illness data shows inpatient admissions and emergency room visits due to COVID-19 are remaining low.
Containing the Spread
With the data showing COVID-19 still circulating in our communities, Arizonans need to remain vigilant. Thanks to the sacrifice and responsible behavior of our citizens and businesses, Arizona is in a much different place than when cases started rising in June and July, with the following:
- Most of Arizona is currently covered by a local or county mask mandate, including Maricopa and Pima Counties. We know that masks are one of the most effective methods for preventing COVID-19 transmission and urge all Arizonans to appropriately wear a mask, whether or not they live in an area with a mandate.
- Arizona has implemented strict mitigation strategies along with an enforcement and compliance program to ensure high-risk businesses comply with the mitigation strategies, including:
- All liquor-licensed restaurants, bars, and nightclubs can operate as restaurants with limitations on capacity and implementation of strict mitigation requirements.
- Masks are required in all impacted facilities, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and indoor movie theaters, regardless of whether there is a local mask mandate.
- ADHS has received 3,228 total complaints about 1,764 unique establishments not adhering to the mitigation requirements. As of today, our state investigators have investigated 1,523 of these establishments.
- Currently, we receive an average of 33 complaints per day through the online complaint form and compliance hotline. Complaints received through this hotline allow ADHS and county public health staff to work with businesses to achieve compliance, ensuring the establishment’s ability to remain open while mitigating COVID-19 spread among its staff and customers.
- Arizona has broad access to testing, fast turnaround for results, and enhanced contact tracing through the state and county public health departments. Our major laboratories are currently reporting less than a 24-hour turnaround time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an article in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) highlighting Arizona’s successful mitigation steps, put into place in July and August, that resulted in a 75% decrease in the number of cases. These strategies include implementing mask mandates, reducing occupancy in high-risk businesses, and implementing strict mitigation requirements.
Our epidemiologists continue to monitor the trends in Arizona’s data and make recommendations for limiting the spread of COVID-19. The increased cases and percent positivity show that COVID-19 is still actively circulating and highlights the need for Arizonans to continue taking the important prevention steps they have been following over the past few months: wearing a mask when out in public, staying physically distanced from people who are not in your household, washing your hands frequently, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick.
Here at ADHS, we remain on high alert:
- Our Health Emergency Operations Center continues operating on a 24/7 basis.
- We are working closely with hospital providers to monitor capacity and ensure all Arizonans have access to care.
- We are partnering with the private sector and state and local enforcement agencies to ensure adherence to all guidelines and requirements.
- We continue encouraging more Arizonans to get the flu vaccine, another important way to protect vulnerable Arizonans and ensure adequate hospital capacity during this time.
- We are working with our federal partners on developing plans to rapidly distribute COVID-19 vaccine to high-priority groups once it becomes available.
- We continue to increase access to testing across the state, and there are now over 500 testing locations so that anyone exposed to or infected with COVID-19 can get tested.
- And, ADHS and our local health departments continue to follow up with cases and their contacts to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
You can find out more about COVID-19, including recent data and additional prevention strategies, at azhealth.gov/COVID19.