Monday, June 22, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Update for Monday, June 22: Hospital Numbers Climb; COVID-19 Confirmed Cases Top 54K; You Need To Wear a Mask in Pima County

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 9:07 AM

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona jumped over 54,000 as of Monday, June 22, after the state reported 2,196 new cases this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had 5,587 of the state's 54,586 confirmed cases.

That's up almost 18,000 from last Monday's total of 36,705 cases.

A total of 1,342 people have died after contracting the virus, including 242 in Pima County.

Maricopa County has more than half the state's cases, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hitting 31,650.

Arizona hospitals continue to see a steady rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, a record 1,992 Arizonans were hospitalized, a jump of 983 people from the 1,009 hospitalized on June 1. A record number of 1,228 arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 20. Previous to June, the number of people seeking help in emergency rooms never topped 667, but the daily number hasn't dipped below 800 since June 5.

The number of patients in ICU beds hit a new record of 583 yesterday.

As Arizona continued to emerge of a new national hot spot, masks moved into the spotlight last week. If you're out in public in Pima County, you're now expected to wear masks or face coverings.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 along party lines to require face masks on Friday, June 19.

Businesses that are open to the public must provide face coverings to their employees and may refuse to allow a person not exempt from the measure to enter if they cannot maintain a physical distance from others.

Enforcement of the ordinance will be focused on education and promotion of best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

At the board’s emergency meeting Friday, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said criminal penalties will not be imposed on violators of the ordinance, and the measure will be enforced by the county’s health agency, not law enforcement.

The ordinance does not apply to children under the age of 5; people who cannot medically tolerate wearing a mask; people who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing impaired; places and locations of exercise; people who would be put at risk for wearing a mask based on their job; people who are obtaining a service related to the nose, face or head; people who are eating or drinking at a restaurant and are maintaining six feet of distance from other groups; and people who are engaging in outdoor work, recreation or exercise and maintaining six feet of physical distance.

Deputy County Administrator Dr. Francisco Garcia said if Pima County can get 50 to 80 percent of the population to wear a face mask in public, he expects new infections and deaths from COVID-19 to decrease significantly.

Supervisor Ally Miller, who voted against the ordinance, said that this requirement will “pit neighbor against neighbor” and unnecessarily police the county’s residents.

“As far as I'm concerned, all the people that aren't wearing masks probably fit into one of these exemptions,” Miller said. “So in my opinion this ordinance is not going to change that behavior.”

The county's vote capped a week of increasing pressure to require masks to slow the outbreak's spread. In a reversal last Wednesday, June 17, Gov. Doug Ducey said he would allow counties and cities to require people to wear masks.

Ducey conceded that Arizona's soaring numbers were trending in the wrong direction.

"There is an indication that we are not out of the woods yet," Ducey said

Ducey, who wore a mask for the first time before beginning his press briefing, said he would allow cities and counties to set their own policies in regard to mandating the wearing of masks. While he had previously blocked local jurisdictions from setting standards more strict than the state's emergency regulations, Ducey said different areas of the state were facing different circumstances, so he would now allow local communities to set up rules and penalties.

Ducey, who had not emphasized the wearing of face masks before last week, recommended that people should “act responsibly” and wear the masks when out in public.

“Every Arizonan should wear a face mask,” Ducey said. “It’s the smart thing to do.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero wasted little time in taking advantage of Ducey's relaxed standard. She issued a proclamation Thursday requiring the wearing of masks for everyone older than 2 years old when out in public when physical distancing is difficult. The proclamation went into effect Saturday.

“We saw numbers spiking related to the reopening of businesses in the state of Arizona,” Romero said last week. “Just Tuesday we saw one of the biggest spikes of cases throughout the state.”

The new mandate carries a $50 fine or five hours of community service for those who exhibit a “blatant disregard” for public health and safety, according to Romero.

The city will take an educational approach in enforcement, reserving civil infractions for repeat offenders, Romero said.

"If there is a blatant disregard for the public health of others, then we will, if absolutely necessary, a civil infraction of $50 or five hours of community service,” Romero said. “This is something we’re asking of everyone to practice social responsibility, practice caring for themselves and others, and it will take all of us to accomplish.”

City Attorney Mike Rankin said the proclamation applies to all public settings defined as “spaces where the public is invited or allowed to come in” and includes tight gatherings in outdoor spaces.

“It applies in those spaces where physical distancing is impossible or difficult,” Rankin said.

A few basics:

• Businesses are required to have all staff to wear a face mask when interacting with the public.

• Drivers for public transportation such as Sun Tran and rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft must wear masks.

• Parents will are required to make "reasonable efforts" to ensure their children 2 years of age and up are wearing facemasks. While young children are required to wear a facemask in public, they won't need to wear it while at daycare.

• You don't have to wear a mask if you're working in your private office, driving in your car, working out or running in the outdoors.

• You don't have wear a mask when eating or drinking in a restaurant or similar setting.

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