Arizona’s coronavirus crisis is not slowing down. The state set another record on Sunday with 3,858 new coronavirus cases reported. (Due to reporting glitch, only 625 cases were reported Monday.) The state’s total number of cases has now reached 74,000, and Governor Doug Ducey warned last week that the numbers will rise. “We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week following in terms of cases and hospitalizations,” he said.
Blame for the outbreak has been pinned on the state’s aggressive reopening, which began on May 15, and the government’s failure to require masks. It wasn’t until June 17, after much lobbying on behalf of local leaders, that city governments were even allowed to issue local mask orders.
As Arizona continues to produce some of the nation’s most worrisome coronavirus statistics, here are some scenes from life there.
Doctors and nurses are overwhelmed.
As hospitals fill with patients — 4,634 were hospitalized as of Monday, with close to 90 percent of the state’s ICU beds full — medical professionals are witnessing up close what their counterparts in New York, and before that Italy, dealt with earlier this year. In the Times last week, Dr. Bradley A. Dreifuss detailed the situation in the hospitals:
Health care workers are exhausted. Staffing shortages and increasing fatigue are the new normal for emergency departments, intensive-care units and Covid-19 units, and across hospital wards. Staffing levels are being set with an emphasis on “productivity” as determined by financial calculations rather than clinical severity or the complex needs of our patients and the community we serve.
Staff members call in sick or feel so emotionally drained that they need a mental health day to face another shift on the front lines. Staffing shortages are being made even worse by the furloughs of some of our most experienced team members. Inexperienced new nurses remain and plunge into caring for increasingly ill patients with less mentorship and support.
Rafters packed a river over the weekend.
With temperatures ranging into the triple digits, rafters put aside virus concerns and swarmed the Salt River this weekend. Masks were in short supply.
Bars in Scottsdale are being shut down.
The governor’s office is cracking down on bars in Scottsdale for not following rules put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While the bars deny flouting protocol, staff at Riot House in the city have been observed not wearing masks and not keeping a safe distance, police say. Videos taken earlier this month also showed crowds packed into the club, which was charged with a misdemeanor for “allegedly failing to enforce their own safety policies regarding social distancing,” according to local news
Bars in Tempe aren’t doing any better.
Native tribes are locking down.
In early June, the Navajo Nation lifted the weekend-long curfews that had been in place since March. The curfews mandated people stay inside from Friday night to Monday morning to help curb the outbreak in the nation’s largest Native American reservation. As cases spiked across the rest of Arizona, leaders brought the curfew back the past two weekends.
Now, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, which has seen an eighth of its 13,500 residents test positive for the virus, is instituting similar lockdown measures. People were not allowed to leave their yards over the weekend and the use of alcohol is banned for the rest of the year.
On the Havasupai reservation, which has no cases, officials are threatening white-water rafters with arrest if they step on the tribe’s land.
Some local leaders are sticking up for “freedom.”
While the leaders of Arizona’s biggest cities were eager to enact mask mandates, Bryce Hamblin was not. The mayor of Eagar in Eastern Arizona said he will “err on the side of freedom” and not require masks. He also won’t cancel planned summer events. “Never before has our government been more eager and willing to take away freedoms from the citizenry,” he said in a statement reported by the Arizona Republic. “Never before has the citizenry been more willing to give them up.”
Last week, Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips, a Republican, made national news after he mocked the last words of George Floyd during an anti-mask protest. He later apologized.