Arizona becomes Covid hotspot of the world as governor resists restrictions | US news

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Arizona is reporting the highest rate of new coronavirus cases in the United States, as the state’s governor continues to resist calls to install strong restrictive measures.

With an average of 118.3 new cases per 100,000 people, Arizona has become what health officials call the latest “hotspot of the world” because of soaring case loads.

The state has the highest coronavirus diagnosis rate in the US, with one out of every 119 people testing positive in the past week. It reported nearly 300 coronavirus deaths, a pandemic high, and nearly 10,000 new infections on Thursday.

The surge has stressed Arizona’s healthcare system, with a record 4,920 Covid-19 patients occupying inpatient hospital beds and a record 1,101 patients in intensive care.

Health officials have urged Doug Ducey, Arizona’s governor, to install new measures as cases surge. Ducey, a Republican, so far has declined to institute a statewide mask mandate, allowed school districts to mostly make their own choices and allowed businesses to stay open.

“We have a governor and health director who don’t care. Their goal in my opinion is to vaccinate their way out of this,” said Will Humble, the head of the Arizona Public Health Association. “Eventually it will work. There’s just going to be a lot of dead people in the meantime.”

CJ Karamargin, the governor’s spokesman, said the current number of cases and deaths are “heartbreaking” but it’s a phenomenon happening in other states even with strict stay-at-home orders.

People wear masks while grocery shopping in Tucson, Arizona, 4 April 2020.

People wear masks while grocery shopping in Tucson, Arizona, 4 April 2020. Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters

“Faced with strict mitigation measures in place and states that have few or minimal mitigation measures in place all are experiencing the same thing,” Karamargin said. “The mitigation measures the state of Arizona put into place early on – they remain in place. We urge every Arizonan to follow them.”

At the same time, the state is working to ramp up vaccination distribution efforts, Karamargin added. More than 119,000 people in Arizona have received the vaccine, state health officials said Wednesday. That is less than 2% of the state’s population. Nationally, as of Wednesday, more than three weeks into the US vaccination campaign, 5.3 million people had gotten their first.

Ducey has rejected calls from healthcare leaders to tighten restrictions, arguing it would cause people to be out of work. He also dismissed a proposal to have all public schools go to virtual learning for two weeks after the holidays.

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The live-and-let-live approach arguably worked for some months, as cases remained high but more arguably manageable compared to the situation in the summer. In recent days, the numbers have surged.

“It’s way worse than July already, and it’s going to continue to get worse. We’re probably two weeks behind LA in terms of our situation,” said Humble, referring to Los Angeles county, where a Covid-19 surge has created a shortage of oxygen and led ambulance crews to stop transporting patients they can’t revive in the field.

Dr Joshua LaBaer, the director of the Biodesign Institute research center at Arizona State University, called the state “the hotspot of the world right now”. He believes at least 1 in 10 people actually has the virus.

“That means if you’re at the supermarket, there are people around you who have it but they may not know it yet,” LaBaer said. “It’s not a time where I would recommend people spend time indoors with people who are not their immediate family.”

The state also “without a doubt” will see more deaths than usual for the winter months, LaBaer said. Aside from coronavirus-related deaths, people with other illnesses who hesitate to go to the hospital are at risk.

Dr Michael White, the chief clinical officer of Arizona’s Valleywise Health said the Phoenix-based healthcare system has no intensive care beds available. Some patients waiting for beds were being treated on gurneys in the emergency department.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in all the years I’ve been part of healthcare,” White said.

Dr Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer of Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital chain, said the uncontrollable spread of the virus could be lessened if the government enforced mask requirements, barred indoor dining and cancelled large gatherings. People also need to wear masks and limit their contact to only those they live with.

“We are not doing a good job with this virus,” Bessel said of the state. “At this time during the surge of the pandemic, we need additional mitigation. We need enforcement of those mitigation activities, and we need everybody to do their own part.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Arizona becomes Covid hotspot of the world as governor resists restrictions | US news

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