Coronavirus cases are set to reach their highest number in Arizona since early August, despite efforts by state health officials to mitigate the ongoing pandemic.
Reported cases in Arizona have followed a nationwide trend in recent weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,984 new cases statewide as of Nov. 11, after a gradual upward trend that seemed to begin in September, when an average of fewer than 300 cases were reported.
In Mohave County alone, almost 450 new cases have been reported within the first two weeks of November, according to state health department records. With 99 confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 Mohave County residents, and more cases reported each day, Mohave County reflected a growing number of cases nationwide.
Gov. Ducey addressed Arizonans Wednesday afternoon in a press conference to address the trend in new cases.
“It’s been eight months since I issued a public health emergency in Arizona,” Ducey said. “Many are asking when it will end … that’s not on the horizon. We remain in a public health emergency, and getting back to normal is not in the cards right now.”
According to Ducey, the impact of the coronavirus has been felt throughout Arizona, and conflicting attitudes toward mitigation efforts have at times hindered those efforts entirely.
“This has been a long haul,” Ducey said. “We are not out of the woods, and there are no ‘easy asks’. But this is my ‘ask’. There are two extreme camps out there. One wants to lock everything down, and the other thinks it’s all a hoax. Both have been loud and vocal. Most of the public aren’t part of either camp, and neither am I. But masks work. Please wear them.”
According to statements from Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ, there have been substantial increases in new coronavirus cases. Masks and face coverings have proven an effective method of preventing transmission of the virus, Christ said, but recent CDC studies have also show that face coverings can also offer a layer of protection against possible infection as well.
Masks are already a required measure at bars, restaurants, fitness centers and other venues throughout the state. Combined with mandatory social distancing measures, Ducey says Arizonans can reduce this month’s influx of new cases.
Ducey announced Wednesday that $25 million would be directed by the Arizona Governor’s Office to support staffing at hospitals statewide. The funding will be used to reward existing direct-care employees and pay staff costs at Arizona healthcare facilities.
“We’ve been communicating with Arizonans since February about how to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus,” Ducey said Wednesday. “We’re asking the public to be smart, be responsible and to follow the public health guidelines Dr. Christ has put together.”
According to Ducey, however, Arizonans are no longer the only ones at risk.
“Thousands of people are arriving from the Midwest, the East Coast and elsewhere,” Ducey said. “We’re amplifying our message to make sure every individual in the state knows what steps to protect themselves.”
Arizona health officials are already working with airports in Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson to inform arriving travelers about the potential risks of coronavirus in Arizona, Ducey said.
The governor, however, was optimistic for the potential release of coronavirus vaccines next year, from manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna. With a possible solution to the crisis apparently close at hand, Ducey on Wednesday issued an executive order to collect information in reference to those vaccines, and to identify those Arizona populations that need them most.
“Today we learned that the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective,” Ducey said. “The Moderna vaccine is also 95% effective. Our task force is actively working to ensure there will be effective distribution of the vaccines when they are released.”
Since the start of the pandemic, 283,102 Arizona residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 6,365 have reportedly died from coronavirus infection.