Arizona has become a hot spot for the coronavirus since the end of May. On May 26, at the end of the Memorial Day weekend, there had been 18,000 cases reported in the state. As of July 6, the Arizona Department of Health Services said that number had increased by 500 percent to more than 100,000. Just over 1,800 Arizonans have died.
La Paz County has seen an even more dramatic increase in the number of cases. The county did not see its first case until March 25. On May 26, there had been 51 cases. The La Paz County Health Department reported July 5 that number had increased to 361. That’s more than seven times the number less than six weeks earlier.
To put those numbers in perspective, this means Arizona has had 1,411.2 cases per 100,000 residents. La Paz County, with 22,000 residents, has a rate of 1,618.9 per 100,000 residents. The State of New York, which has had more cases than any other state, has a rate of 2,166.5 per 100,000 residents. The national average is 882.1.
What’s behind the big increases in both the state and the county? Jenna McDaniel, the spokesperson for the La Paz County Health Department, said a major part of the problem is people are not practicing the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and other entities for social distancing and other actions needed to slow the spread of the virus.
“Some contributing factors to why the county has seen a dramatic increase in numbers in the last five weeks, is a direct cause of parts of the community not following the guidelines and an increase in testing,” she said in an e-mail to the Pioneer. “Family and friends are continuing to gather. However, many are not wearing a mask or physically distancing.”
“The cases increased after the state reopened on May 15 due to people continuing to not take proper precautions, returning to normal activities and of course, due to more testing,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said some of the “cluster” outbreaks they’ve seen are due to people not staying home when they’re not feeling well. Some people have continued to work, socialize with others and be out in the community.
“Not feeling well is as simple as a minor sore throat, sniffles, a slight cough and/or a fever of 100.4, according to the CDC,” she said. “Unfortunately, these factors have had a huge impact on our local spread of COVID-19.”
Since May, the state has increased the number of testing sites and the number of people being tested. McDaniel said the increased number of tests has led to more positive cases being found.
Outside visitors to the area have not had a significant impact on the number of cases in La Paz County, McDaniel said.
“The vast majority of our cases are not traced back to California or any other outside area,” she said. “The daily contact tracing and case investigations being conducted by the La Paz County Health Department, are showing visitors play a very small role in our community spread.”
McDaniel said all county residents need to do their part in working to contain the coronavirus. She noted there is no vaccines or medications yet available to eradicate the virus. She said the virus is highly contagious, is easily transmitted, and is doing what viruses do, which is spreading.
“We need people to take responsibility for their actions, to protect others, in order to slow down the spread,” she said. “This virus is not going away anytime soon and a vaccination will not be available for months. Therefore, it is our responsibility to not only protect ourselves, but protect our families, friends and others. Please wear a mask, practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer and stay home when you do not feel well!”