Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 26, 2020

Arizona's situation with the coronavirus has continued to improve dramatically over the last four weeks. Arizona's rate of new infections has greatly slowed while deaths attributed to the coronavirus has begun falling rapidly.

These improvements can be seen in a trifecta of charts showing key trends in the daily progression of coronavirus infections in Arizona from 10 March 2020 through 25 August 2020. The first chart presents the state's daily progression tower chart that communicates the overall trends in the amount of testing, the incidence of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the number of hospitalized Arizonans and also the number of deaths in the state. The second chart shows the trend for the state's test positivity rate, which dropped below the 5% threshold in recent days, and the third chart shows the number of cases and deaths reported in the state each day. (Click here to see a full-size version of Arizona's trifecta of COVID-19 charts!)

Arizona Coronavirus Daily Progression Tower Chart, Test Positivity Rate, and Daily Reported Confirmed Cases and Deaths from 10 March 2020 through 25 August 2020

We've been following the progression of COVID-19 in Arizona since the state became an epicenter for COVID-19, rivaling the state of New York for its share of population affected as it experienced a delayed first wave of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections. While Arizona has seen a similar share of its population affected by COVID-19 infections, the state has been much more successful in limiting the number of associated deaths.

See for yourself in this chart!

COVID-19 7-day Average Confirmed Cases and Deaths per 100,000 Residents for New York and Arizona, 17 March 2020 - 25 August 2020

Even though Arizona experienced a similar number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents as New York, it experienced a much lower rate of deaths, as the state did a much better job in protecting nursing home and long term care facility residents from exposure to coronavirus infections.

Arizona is experiencing a rapid reduction in the number of newly reported cases, thanks largely to the expansion of testing capacity at the labs conducting the vast majority of coronavirus testing in the state. That capacity came on line in early August, contributing to a plunge in newly reported confirmed cases as a large backlog was cleared. The effects of that expanded test capacity can be seen in a chart showing the daily number of newly reported confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona.

Daily Newly Reported Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in Arizona, 3 March 2020 - 25 August 2020

More significantly, Arizona is also seeing a rapid reduction in its number of deaths attributed to COVID-19. That reduction is confirmed a chart revealing the daily number of COVID-19 deaths in Arizona.

Daily COVID-19 Deaths in Arizona, 3 March 2020 - 25 August 2020

This chart confirms the effects of two actions taken by the state in responding to its surge in coronavirus cases and deaths in June 2020. Arizona turned the first corner to beating the spread of the coronavirus in the period corresponding to when a change might be expected to be seen following Governor Ducey's executive order allowing county officials to require masks be worn inside public venues. This action appears to have contributed to halting the upward trend in deaths that had been underway since Arizona lifted its statewide lockdown order in mid-May 2020, which accelerated in June thanks to the anti-police protests that occurred in the state from 28 May 2020 through 15 June 2020.

More significantly, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's 29 June 2020 order to close public venues associated with a high risk of spreading coronavirus infections such as gyms, bars, movie theaters, and water parks appears to have contributed to the reduction in deaths that begins in the period that would be expected following that order. The governor later extended the order to continue into mid-August.

Governor Ducey also acted on 9 July 2020 to restrict Arizona restaurants to serving 50% of their dining capacity, but that action doesn't appear to have been as impactful as the governor's 29 June 2020 order.

The following table summarizes the major events indicated in these charts.
















Timeline of Events Affecting Rate of Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Arizona
Event/Date Description Observed Change in Trends for Hospitalizations 11-13 Days Later
A
19 Mar 2020
California imposes statewide lockdown orderSignificant change from rising to steady (bounded range) rate of hospitalizations. We think Arizonans effectively implemented practices to minimize their exposure risk to potential coronavirus infections, which then happened to show up as a change in trend immediately after Arizona implemented its own statewide lockdown order.
B
31 Mar 2020
Arizona imposes statewide lockdown order through April 2020Minimal change, new COVID-19 hospitalizations continue within bounded range. We think the main effect of the lockdown order was to standardize how Arizonans minimized their coronavirus exposure risks, which allowed the benefits to extend until the order was lifted, although that came at great economic cost. The lockdown would later be extended to 15 May 2020.
C
15 May 2020
Arizona lifts statewide lockdown orderSignificant change from steady to rising rate of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
D
28 May 2020 to 15 Jun 2020
Large scale political protests (Black Lives Matter/George Floyd/Anti-Police)Change in rate of growth in rate of new hospital admissions as the protests greatly increased the risk and rate of exposure to the coronavirus for younger Arizonans, who are less likely to require hospitalization. Sharp increase in number of cases not requiring hospital admission.
E
19 Jun 2020
Governor Ducey's executive order allowing counties to require wearing masks in public venues begins to be implemented. Significant change as new COVID-19 hospital admissions peak and begin to decline. Upward trend in deaths stop as state turns first corner toward improvement.
F
30 Jun 2020
Arizona imposes 'mini-lockdown' orderSignificant change, with acceleration in decline of number of cases. Deaths peak before turning a corner and beginning a rapid decline.
G
1 Aug 2020
Expanded testing capacity comes onlineSignificant reduction in number of reported confirmed cases, as test labs speed processing and eliminate backlog. Continued downward trend.

One thing we haven't yet addressed is hospitalizations, where the purpose of these policies is to avoid the situation where the available capacity to care for coronavirus-infected patients might be exceeded. This final chart is taken from the Arizona Department of Health Service's COVID-19 data dashboard site, which confirms that state succeeded in flattening the curve of infections to keep it within manageable levels, as measured by the number of intensive care unit beds being used in the state.

Arizona DHS: Number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Beds Available and In Use at Arizona Hospitals

Data on the site confirms a similar story for all inpatient beds in Arizona, as well as emergency department beds. Arizona succeeded in flattening the curve for coronavirus infections and avoided the excess COVID-19 deaths that resulted from poor policy choices made by elected officials in other states.

Previously on Political Calculations

References

Arizona Department of Health Services. COVID-19 Data Dashboard. [Online Application/Database].

Maricopa County Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). COVID-19 Data Archive. Maricopa County Daily Data Reports. [PDF Document Directory, Daily Dashboard].

Stephen A. Lauer, Kyra H. Grantz, Qifang Bi, Forrest K. Jones, Qulu Zheng, Hannah R. Meredith, Andrew S. Azman, Nicholas G. Reich, Justin Lessler. The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) From Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: Estimation and Application. Annals of Internal Medicine, 5 May 2020. https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-0504.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios. [PDF Document]. Updated 10 July 2020.

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