Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ provided a COVID-19 update at a press conference today amid rising cases throughout the state.
On Oct. 29, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 1,315 new COVID-19 cases throughout the state, with a percent positivity of 9.7%.
Pima County reported 105 new COVID-19 cases today and now has recorded 28,067 of Arizona’s 242,480 total positive cases.
“The recent increase in cases has resulted in an increase in the COVID-19 rates in many counties,” Christ said at the press conference. “At the Arizona Department of Health Services, we remain on high alert. We’ve worked to contain COVID-19 from all angles, and we continue to take further action in light of recent increases.”
Although Ducey acknowledged Arizona’s rising coronavirus numbers, he said in comparison to other states, “we’re not in that zone that we’re seeing in other places.”
“We do see this rising in different parts of the country, our expectation in Arizona has been that cases would continue to go up,” he said.
The governor recognized that the state’s current R naught number, which indicates how contagious a virus is, is currently at 1.16, which means coronavirus is spreading as fast as it did in June.
“Arizona did one of the best jobs in the nation when our time of challenge did come of driving it beneath one, but as we head into influenza season it becomes more challenging,” Ducey said.
Although the current rise in COVID-19 cases is alarming, Ducey said there’s even more to come.
“We know that there is a storm ahead of us, yet it’s not here,” Ducey said. “But those simple guidelines of wearing a mask, washing our hands, being socially distanced and using common sense have served us very well to date.”
However, the governor doesn’t plan on imposing new safety restrictions to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“The mitigation that we’ve put out, the plan we put into effect remains in effect. I am proud that Arizona is open, that our economy is open, that our educational institutions are open and our tourist destinations are open,” Ducey said. “While at the same time, we do have mitigation steps in place that have allowed us to protect lives while protecting livelihoods, and we’re gonna continue to do that.”
Given the likelihood of travel and large gatherings, Christ says she anticipates seeing a spike 10-14 days after Thanksgiving that could potentially increase over the next 4-6 weeks.
In preparation for the holiday season, she said ADHS will be putting out guidance, working on mitigation strategies and making sure hospitals have enough resources, although she said the biggest barrier for hospitals is not “the beds, but could be the staffing.”
Christ urged citizens to continue mitigation tactics such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and getting an influenza shot.
“We understand that this has been a difficult year, and many have grown tired of the mitigation strategies. But now is not the time to let up,” she said.
When asked about the example he’s setting for Arizonans after repeatedly attending public events sans-mask, including at a Trump rally at the Prescott Regional Airport Oct. 19 and as he spoke at today’s press conference, Ducey called upon the First Amendment.
“We’ve been consistent the entire time through the pandemic to protect people’s rights under the Constitution,” Ducey said. “There are five days left in the election cycle and we’ll continue to protect people’s rights.”
Although she didn’t directly acknowledge the dangers of attending a large rally, Christ said, “I would always recommend to wear masks.”
When asked if she’s concerned COVID-19 cases could be increasing because of rallies like the governor attended, she said “I think there’s a lot of different things that are playing a role in the increase in the cases.”
“What I would recommend to Arizonans is if they are going to attend a large gathering or even go somewhere that has people that they don’t live in their household with, make sure that you are taking those precautions and stay six feet away from others,” Christ said.