CLOSE

In the scramble to protect against the coronavirus, counterfeit masks and other supplies flooded the market. Fake medical gear was just one of the problems uncovered in a joint Associated Press/Frontline/Global Reporting Centre investigation. (Oct. 6)

AP Domestic

PHOENIX – COVID-19 cases in Arizona spiked 151% after a statewide stay-at-home order expired and dropped 75% after local mask mandates, a new report says.

The report, published this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was written by officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services, including director Dr. Cara Christ.

A stay-at-home order in Arizona expired May 15 and two weeks later – between June 1 and June 15 – the daily average number of COVID-19 cases jumped by 151%, the report says. The incubation period for a person exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to develop COVID-19 is about two days to two weeks.

The spike in cases ended up overwhelming the state’s health care system with a surge of extremely ill COVID-19 patients needing care.

On June 6, as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona climbed, Christ sent a letter to hospitals in the state urging them to “fully activate” their emergency plans.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona peaked between June 29 and July 2, stabilized between July 3 and July 12, and declined by about 75% between July 13 and August 7, the report says.

“Mitigation measures, including mask mandates, that are implemented and enforced statewide appear to have been effective in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona,” the report says.

Restriction on local jurisdictions missing from report

What the report doesn’t make clear is that local jurisdictions were prevented by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey from imposing mask requirements until June 17, when the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was already aggressively spreading throughout the state. Arizona does not have a statewide mask mandate.

“If they’d been allowed to do so earlier, a number of those jurisdictions, if not all of them, would have had those mandates in place earlier and our peak of infection would have been lower,” said Dr. Bob England, who until June spent a year as interim director of the Pima County Health Department and is a former Maricopa County health director.

Gov. Doug Ducey leaves a news conference at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in Phoenix on Aug. 31. (Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic)

“But that’s all hindsight. What matters now as we head into the winter months and we all anticipate another surge of this infection coming, the locals need to have the continued ability to impose mitigating measures like masks.”

Will Humble, Arizona Public Health Association executive director, wrote in a blog post Thursday that the state’s report was  “wordsmithed” to leave out important information about the mask question.

Humble wrote that “courageous elected officials in county and local government across the state” had requested authority from Ducey to issue mask requirements and that many of them later “faced backlash from elements of their electorate”