This Week in COVID: Cases Are Going Exponential, but Where's Ducey?

"Arizona's open," Governor Doug Ducey declared at a press conference last month.
"Arizona's open," Governor Doug Ducey declared at a press conference last month. Youtube
It's Tuesday, October 27. Over 240,000 Arizonans have contracted COVID-19 and more than 5,890 have died from it. Here's what's happened in the last week:

The United States is in the middle of a third wave of COVID-19, and so is Arizona. As of Monday, the country was averaging more than 69,000 daily cases, the most at any point since the virus reached the United States. Much of the case growth is in the Midwest, but cases in Arizona are growing exponentially, Joshua LaBaer, executive director of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, told reporters last Wednesday.

Arizona passed an average of 1,000 new cases per day over the weekend. This is the highest number since mid-August. While cases were dropping then, they are increasing now with no end in sight. "Exponential curves are very tricky things," LaBaer said. It can look like not much, and then "all of sudden it's a 1,000, it's 2,000, it's 4,000."

click to enlarge
The COVID Tracking Project
The number of people on ventilators statewide has jumped back over 500. While LaBaer said less people are being hospitalized as doctors better understand how to treat COVID-19 at home, the number of people in the hospital and intensive care unit for COVID-19 continues to tick upward. Once again, more than 80 percent of ICU beds statewide are occupied — a general sign that capacity is being stretched.

LaBaer attributed the increase to "COVID fatigue." After case numbers dropped over the summer, people stopped being as diligent about avoiding groups and wearing their masks. If these things are done properly, we can bring the virus under control again, LaBaer said. Wearing your mask under your chin or nose won't cut it, he said.

In a blog post last Thursday, the director of Arizona's Department of Health Services urged Arizonans to keep up their guard and listed what the state has already been doing to address COVID-19. Dr. Cara Christ said the state had received complaints about 1,764 establishments not following COVID-19 mitigation requirements and investigated 1,523 of those complaints. She did not announce any new measures or initiatives.

Speaking of complaints, another strip club has been ordered closed by the state for violating COVID-19 regulations. This time it was Skin Cabaret in Scottsdale.

Meanwhile, it's been weeks since Governor Doug Ducey has briefed the state on COVID-19. The governor did have time to put together a Twitter thread swiping at presidential candidate Joe Biden for criticizing Arizona's response to COVID-19. In the thread, Ducey claimed he acted swiftly to allow local mask mandates, not mentioning the weeks of surging cases it took to reach that point, and characterizing the repeated pleas by mayors to be able to protect their constituents as an "ask."

Some school districts that charged ahead with returning to in-person instruction are now looking at going back to virtual instruction after case outbreaks. Ten schools in Scottsdale have been "highly impacted" by COVID-19 and are calling on families of students and those families' "close contacts" to isolate.

Democratic State Representative Raquel Terán has tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting family. "We take extensive precautions when we go out, we wear masks, we keep our distance and we wash our hands, but we let our guard down with family," she said in a statement. Terán said her husband also had tested positive for the virus.

LaBaer once again recommended against large family gatherings over the holidays. "Don't bring any more than 10 people together at a time right now," he said. Research increasingly shows that COVID-19 is largely spread by highly infectious "super spreaders," and "as soon as you get to numbers like 30 people, the likelihood that someone in that group is a potential super spreader is very high," he said.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Erasmus Baxter was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times.