How Arizona ‘lost control of the epidemic’

PHOENIX – A drive-up testing site equipped for several hundred people in West Phoenix was swarmed on Saturday by about 1,000 people, leaving some baking in their cars for hours.

A nearby testing station has already reached capacity for this weekend, appointments vanishing within minutes. Hospitals are filling up. Restaurants are again shutting down, more than a month after Arizona reopened its economy under the mantra “Return Stronger.”

Arizona has emerged as an epicenter of the early summer’s coronavirus crisis as the outbreak has metastasized, flaring across new parts of the country and, notably, infecting more young people.

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is recording as many as 2,000 cases a day, “eclipsing the New York City boroughs even on their worst days,” warned a Wednesday brief by disease trackers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which observed, “Arizona has lost control of the epidemic.”

But physicians, public health experts, advocates and local officials say the crisis was predictable in Arizona, where local ordinances requiring masks were verboten until Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, reversed course last week. State leaders did not take the necessary precautions or model safe behavior, these observers maintain, even in the face of compelling evidence and repeated pleas from authoritative voices.

“We have failed on so many levels,” said Dana Marie Kennedy, the Arizona director of AARP, who said her organization has yet to receive a response to four letters outlining concerns to the governor. She is working on a fifth.

Neither the governor’s office nor the state health department responded to requests for comment.

At critical junctures, blunders by top officials undermined faith in the data purportedly driving decision-making, according to experts monitoring Arizona’s response. And when forbearance was most required, as the state began to reopen despite continued community transmission, an abrupt and uniform approach – without transparent benchmarks or latitude for stricken areas to hold back – led large parts of the public to believe the pandemic was over.

And now, Arizona is facing more per capita cases than recorded by any country in Europe or even by hard-hit Brazil. Among states with at least 20 people hospitalized for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, no state has seen its rate of hospitalizations increase more rapidly since Memorial Day.

Source: Stamford Advocate