In This State, the Virus Is 'Spreading Like Wildfire'

Arizona has become the new COVID hot spot
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2020 9:07 AM CDT
How Arizona Became the New Coronavirus Hot Spot
In this Thursday file photo, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey answers a question after he announced the latest coronavirus numbers and recent spike in cases during a news conference in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool,File)

(Newser) – As states start to reopen amid the pandemic, there's a red flag rising out of the Southwest. Business Insider reports the coronavirus outbreak "is going very badly" in Arizona, with more than 4,400 new cases over the weekend, bringing the total number of cases in the state to more than 37,500 as of Sunday, with nearly 1,200 deaths. Per Healthline, there's been a 300% increase in reported cases since May 1. Tucson.com reports that in just one week (from May 31 to June 6), the state saw its biggest week-to-week increase yet: 7,121 new coronavirus patients, or about a 54% increase from the previous week. Meanwhile, the Arizona Republic reports that hospitalizations are on the rise as well, with two straight weeks of statewide hospitalizations surpassing 1,000 daily—the highest number since state reporting began in the beginning of April. Will Humble, a former director of the state's Department of Health Services, says the spike is "definitely related" to the state's stay-at-home order being dropped on May 15, per Newsweek. More on the Grand Canyon State:

  • Eyewitness to tragedy: CBS 5 talked to one doctor who works at two Phoenix hospitals, and he described what he's been seeing in ERs and ICUs. "He asked if he could make a call in the hospital," he says of one elderly patient. "It was very tragic to hear him say goodbye to his godkids and grandchildren, who you could really tell loved him."

  • Restaurant woes: Positive virus cases among Phoenix-area workers in the food service industry have gone "from a trickle to a steady stream" over the past few weeks, per the Phoenix New Times. ABC15 notes that restaurants are starting to shutter again—some for a day or two, others for longer.
  • Jam-packed nightlife: People cooped up for months have been flocking to bars and nightclubs, where social distancing has been difficult. "Drunk people don't conduct themselves responsibly," one bar owner who felt forced to open when other venues did tells the Los Angeles Times. He wrote on his bar's Facebook page that Gov. Doug Ducey "should have kept us all safe, but instead we move forward."
  • Video clips: The owner of a video production company headed out to one Arizona town on Saturday night to record what he saw at some of these crowded clubs and bars—and per FOX 10 Phoenix, "young people don't seem so scared and see it as 'every person for themselves.'"

  • Unmasked: In malls, bars, eateries, and other crowded public places, most patrons aren't wearing masks, per Time—and Ducey isn't requiring them to, at least at this point. Not everyone agrees with the governor's lack of a mandate. "I wear it for my safety and for the other person's safety," one 93-year-old resident says. "Let's cooperate. I've lived too long."
  • Red alert from a congressman: Another Arizona public official seems more alarmed at what's happening in his state, and he's tweeting about it, Newsweek reports. "Arizona is the new national hotspot for COVID-19," Rep. Greg Stanton posted Sunday. "Per capita, Arizona's infection rate is now more than three times higher than New York state. It's spreading like wildfire." Stanton believes masks should be mandated.
  • Trouble spots elsewhere: Vox looks at the "totally predictable" outcome of state reopenings, specifically in the Carolinas, Texas, and Florida. The upshot: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are once again on the rise in those states after stay-at-home orders were loosened. "We managed to disrupt our economy [and] skyrocket unemployment, and we didn't control the damn virus," a Columbia University infectious disease expert says.
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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