Was Arizona Prepared for COVID-19?


A look at how the state became a belated hotspot, and what may help reduce future infection growth.

This time last week, the state of Arizona had reported 3246 new cases of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)—then a new daily record. At this time one week later, the state is still reporting 3000-plus daily new cases, as the virus’ greatest rises have moved southwest nationally.

Though very recent elements at play for Arizona spelled the rise in cases it is currently seeing, there remains questions as to whether this state—and many other new hotspots—were prepared for a COVID-19 spread.

It was—at least in terms of preparing personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital staffing, and testing availability. Preparedness wasn’t reflected in much else, Saskia Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, told Contagion®.

“There’s only so much you can do if open the floodgates to exposures through community-based reopening efforts that were too soon and too fast,” Popescu said.

In the latter half of an interview with Contagion, Popescu, the Phoenix, AZ-based epidemiologist and frequent site contributor, explained how recent efforts to enforce public mask-wearing and rebolstered social distancing felt “contraindicated” in her state.

She also discussed lessons legislators may have hopefully learned from this spike in new cases: how major decisions can influence public perception of this pandemic.

“When you do reopen, it almost gives the impression that things are fine, that there’s no COVID in the community,” she explained. “And unfortunately, I think that communication was lacking.”

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