COVID-19 artwork

ARIZONA — Arizona appears to be “flattening the curve” when it comes to new infections and deaths from COVID-19 – mirroring a hopeful national trend.

Arizona has recorded 122 deaths from COVID-19 as of this writing, with deaths doubling every five days or so. That’s a little better than the national average.

Nonetheless, the United States has recorded more than 16,000 deaths and roughly 430,000 confirmed cases, making the US the epicenter of the pandemic – with 1,000 new deaths every day.

However, the rate of increase has slowed in most regions.

The slowing of the spread has prompted federal officials to lower their estimate of the death toll in the next few months to well below 100,000 – thanks to the widespread embrace of social distancing.

Last week, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle lowered its estimate from 82,000 to 60,000.

At one time, some computer models predicted between 100,000 and 250,000 deaths in the US, based on the rate of spread at that time.

If the current hopeful trend continues, Arizona will suffer less of an impact than many other states. That’s fortunate, given the state’s shortage of hospital beds, ventilators, doctors and nurses, relative to the rest of the country.

Over the weekend, the Arizona Department of Health Services began making public some additional data on COVD-19 cases, such as the number of cases by zip code. This appears to be in response to the threat of a lawsuit by Pinal County. The state had withheld that information for fear of violating patient privacy.

Many other states release information like the zip code in which people who test positive live, which gives local health officials and residents better information needed to slow the spread.  Unlike many other states, Arizona does not release information like what percentage of hospital beds are in use, where people who test positive have traveled, what percentage of patients have recovered and other information.

The Pinal County lawsuit said “due to the current clear and imminent danger of the Coronavirus to public health, we plead with the court to compel all Arizona state and local public health agencies. … to immediate release all prior general and non-personally identifiable information,” according to a story in the Arizona Republic.

Deaths per 100,000 population (data as of 4-9)

On a per-100,000 population basis, Maricopa County has so far documented 40 cases and one death. Compare that to New York, with 1,000 cases and 57 deaths per 100,000 population. The pandemic started earlier in New York and spread much faster, but even there the daily increase in new cases has dropped off.

Many of Arizona’s rural counties have had only a few cases and no deaths – including Gila County with no deaths and just 3 confirmed cases.

Even much more populous Pinal County as of late last week had 33 cases per 100,000 and 0.7 deaths while Pima County had 50 cases and two deaths per 100,000.

Some city level data has emerged from published national data bases. For instance, Show Low Arizona had 43 cases per 100,000 population for a rate of 0.39 per 100,000 population, according to numbers published by the New York Times.

Some rural areas have higher rates than Maricopa County.

Coconino County had 150 cases and 11 deaths per 100,000 population. Apache County had 73 cases and 4 deaths per 100,000.

Navajo County has the unwanted distinction of the worst outbreak in the state on a per-capita basis. Navajo County had 263 cases and 6.4 deaths per 100,000. Most of the cases recorded have occurred on the Navajo Nation Reservation, however. 

That means Navajo County has six times the death rate as Maricopa County – but but roughly one tenth as many deaths per 100,000 as New York.

Even more heartening, the doubling time of new infections has started to decline in many areas. The doubling times in those counties with enough cases to calculate range from six days in Navajo County to eight days in Maricopa County.

Nationwide, deaths are doubling every five days. That’s still one of the fastest rates of spread in the world.

In Italy and Iran, the doubling time’s now three weeks. In South Korea, it’s four weeks and in Spain its about 12 days.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

(1) comment

phxnative54

Just this morning in the Eagar/Springerville area, where at least one Codiv-19 case has been confirmed, we still saw many people wandering around the grocery stores with no masks and no gloves (though they were pretty good about maintaining a safe distance). Many weren't wiping the handles of the carts. To its credit, one of the hardware stores wouldn't even let people in without a mask. So are the people who STILL aren't taking precautions referred to as "Covidiots"?

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