The Arizona Department of Health Services updated their COVID-19 dashboard this morning, reporting a total of 9,305 infections across the state and 395 deaths. This update reflects no new reported deaths anywhere in the state since Sunday. The number of reported infections continues to increase, rising 386 overnight and 33 in Yavapai County. But these numbers likely reflect higher testing rates rather than an increasing spread of the virus. Among the 88,260 who have been tested, the actual percentage of people testing positive has declined from 9% to 8% of those tested. This is one of the favorable trends health authorities have been looking for to determine if the curve has flattened and the spread of the virus has crested.
The improving picture of the pandemic statewide comes against a backdrop of very troubling news about a spike in infections at the Mingus Mountain Academy in Yavapai County and the first reported death at the Verde Valley Jail. (See related eNews article) Although a second staff person has tested positive at the jail, as of this writing no inmate infections have been reported.
For Yavapai County, the patterns since reporting began remain in place. Yavapai County has had two reported deaths due to COVID-19. The county infection rate of 54.2 per 100,000 remains half of the state average of 129.4. For the state as a whole, Maricopa County, with 4,929 cases, continues to have over half Arizona’s reported infections. Pima County with 1,379 cases, or about a third of the number as Maricopa, is the next highest. Together with three other counties, Navajo at 869, Apache with 579, and Coconino, with 561, these five counties account for 89% of all infections statewide. Five rural counties, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham, Gila, and Greenlee, report relatively few infections and no deaths at all. Further, the largest percentage of reported deaths are among those with underlying health problems and over the age of 65. Mortality among those under the age of 64 continues to be low.
The fact that different geographic areas of the state and different demographic groups have dramatically different infection and mortality rates appears to be driving protests against Governor Ducey’s Executive Orders restricting businesses and private movement which apply statewide and not just in the areas most affected. A Sunday protest at the Capitol drew a crowd of 500. Calls from legislative leaders for Governor Ducey to loosen restrictions have become more vocal. The Capitol Times reports that both House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann have privately urged the Governor to loosen restrictions and allow businesses to reopen. On Monday, Governor Ducey announced a speeded up time frame allowing restaurants and hair salons to reopen as soon this Friday but many restriction remain in place.
Two county sheriffs, Doug Schuster in Mojave and Mark Lamb in Pinal, have stated that they are not enforcing the Governor’s lockdown with arrests or citations. Sheriff Lamb is quoted in today’s Arizona Republic as saying he thought the Governor had “no right to deprive people of their livelihood or pursuit of happiness.” He said he welcomed a legal challenge. Sheriff Schuster is quoted as saying he “did not want to harshly enforce the governor’s order” because he found it a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Here in Yavapai County, a spokesman for Sheriff Masher states deputies have been instructed to respond to complaints with ”information and education.” To date, no citations against Yavapai county businesses or private citizens have been issued and no arrests have been made.