Despite fears that COVID-19 cases are surging in Arizona due to the state’s low vaccination rate and the emergence of the delta variant, new cases barely exceed 1,000 per day. The most recent data from Worldometer, which is cited by reputable organizations and governments around the world, shows the number of new daily cases was 1,043 on July 21. The number of new cases has stayed generally between 500 and 1,000 since the beginning of March.
However, Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini entitled his July 22 column, “Arizona’s COVID-19 surge is being led by a selfish unvaccinated scourge.” Another article headline at the paper blared, “Arizona is experiencing a third COVID-19 surge, ASU expert says.” ABC-15 reported that “we saw a big increase in daily reported cases last week on July 14.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned during a Senate hearing on July 20 that the delta variant accounts for 83 percent of new cases. She said low vaccination rates allow “for the emergency and rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.” On July 16, she said in a statement that went viral, “COVID-19 is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
But during two previous surges in Arizona, there were months where the new daily cases were higher than 1,043. There was a spike from the end of November until the beginning of February, which peaked at 17,234 daily cases on January 3. A smaller surge occurred from the beginning of June 2020 through the end of July, peaking at 4,877 cases on July 1.
Arizona never fully locked down, unlike many states. Governor Doug Ducey allowed restaurants, retail establishments, casinos, pools, gyms, and fitness providers to stay open as long as there was physical distancing and enhanced sanitation. There was no statewide mask mandate. Arizona has a lower vaccination rate than average, 44 percent, ranking 30th among the states for the percentage of people fully vaccinated.
Several of the states with the highest numbers of new daily cases are states that locked down and have high vaccination rates. New York reported 1,683 new cases on July 21. There, 56 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, the 10th highest vaccination rate in the country. New York, California, and Illinois are all in the top 10 states with the most new cases.
There were concerns during the pandemic that Arizona would become a hotspot for COVID-19 due to the large percentage of illegal immigrants coming over the border. The National Sheriffs’ Association issued a border security resolution in June declaring, “Estimates are that between 5 and 50 percent of the persons crossing without documentation are COVID positive.” But despite the influx, Arizona never became an epicenter for the virus like New York or California.
Deaths from COVID-19 similarly remain low. There were 10 deaths on July 21, relatively unchanged since early spring. Previously, deaths peaked on January 12 with 335 deaths, and on July 30 with 172 deaths. Beginning in May, the Arizona Department of Health Services began including probable deaths from COVID-19 along with confirmed deaths in its totals. Probable deaths are ones that don’t have a positive diagnostic test but “but the physician cited a COVID-related cause.” ADHS warned there might be a spike due to the change in counting deaths.
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