This is great news on its own terms, of course, but especially encouraging in that Arizona managed to get a handle on things without ordering a full lockdown. Logically it made sense that Americans wouldn’t need formal stay-at-home orders in order to arrest exponential growth. At a certain point, the virus will spread so rapidly throughout the community that fear of contagion will lead people to stay home without the governor telling them to.
But Americans aren’t always logical in how they behave. That’s how we ended up with a post-reopening “southern wave” of the outbreak in the first place. And Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey did feel obliged to issue a targeted month-long lockdown of bars, gyms, and clubs — places you’re likely to find Zoomers, who know they’re unlikely to have bad outcomes from infection — in late June in order to douse the flames of the COVID wildfire.
It worked, per the Rona Viz site:
The positivity rate is still high at 22 percent, but that’s down from 27.6 percent a few weeks ago. Ducey has already extended his lockdown orders for bars etc. indefinitely in order to keep downward pressure on case counts. How bad did it get in terms of cases per capita before it started to slow down? Pretty bad:
Mountain 10/ pic.twitter.com/I9VEgMJ4SL
— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) July 28, 2020
Although New York remains in a league of its own in terms of deaths per capita:
— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) July 28, 2020
Arizona just recorded its second-highest number of daily deaths from COVID but that’s not confounding since deaths are a lagging indicator. People who are dying of the virus today likely contracted it three or four weeks ago, when the epidemic was still raging locally. Deaths should begin to drop in a few weeks, following the downward trend in cases.
Kansas just announced today that it’s removing Arizona from its list of places whose residents require automatic quarantine when visiting. The question now: Is Arizona headed for a New York outcome, in which cases continue to decline until they approach zero, or are they headed for an outcome like the U.S. in early June, when cases dropped to a certain level and then plateaued there?
“We’ve stabilized at 95 miles an hour, and that is not the speed that we want to be going,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. “Ideally, we don’t want this car moving at all.”…
Even so, disease specialists say Arizona is getting some things right. Dr. LaBaer noted that Governor Ducey changed his tone on prevention efforts and began wearing a mask in public.
Geography may also play a role. About 5.5 million of Arizona’s seven million residents — about three in four people — live in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, and Pima County, which includes Tucson. Both issued orders requiring face masks a little more than a month ago, in mid-June.
Ducey didn’t impose a statewide mask mandate himself but he did allow local authorities to start issuing them, which may have further helped contain the virus. Notably, the other southwestern state that imposed mask mandates and issued a targeted lockdown of certain businesses (i.e. bars) has also seen a positive change in its fortunes lately. That would be Texas, which has had a 21 percent decline in daily cases over the past seven days. Texas is still waiting for hospitalizations to begin declining, though, as they have in Arizona. That’s another lagging indicator of improvement so it should come soon, we hope.
Aside from the humanitarian interest in seeing cases shrink in the south, there’s also the small matter for Republicans of wanting to see them shrink to restore the party’s electoral fortunes there:
Florida was destined to be close no matter what but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Arizona and Texas would be redder right now if they had managed to avoid a COVID crisis while Trump hooted at Republican governors to reopen. This data flagged by the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter is striking:
— amy walter (@amyewalter) July 28, 2020
Trump’s lost more than 25 points among his own party on how he’s handled coronavirus as the southern wave erupted. That’s the difference between a close win and a close loss in battleground states, and a close loss in Florida, especially, would almost certainly mean a Biden presidency. America’s still waiting on Florida to turn its own corner on the pandemic. Case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths have all stabilized lately, but a strong downward trend has yet to appear. Stay tuned.