Local governments enacted mask mandates after cases spiked 151 percent in June

By Julie Mazziotta
October 09, 2020 04:43 PM
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A park ranger at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
| Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

New cases of COVID-19 dropped by 75 percent in less than a month in Arizona after the state instituted a mask mandate and closed bars and gyms, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

The mask mandate and business closures came in June, in response to a 151 percent spike in cases. Arizona had low rates of infection for the months of March, April and May, when the state was in a stay-at-home order and non-essential businesses were closed. But in mid-May, Gov. Doug Ducey decided to lift the orders, telling residents that “we are clearly on the other side of this pandemic.”

The decision to reopen went against recommendations from public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and soon after Memorial Day weekend, Arizona’s COVID-19 cases skyrocketed. Daily case totals soared, to a peak of 4,797 new infections on June 30 alone. The state nearly ran out of hospital beds as sick patients filled ICUs. In just 15 days, the number of COVID-19 cases jumped 151 percent.

In response, Ducey removed his previous executive order that restricted local governments from enacting mask mandates on June 17, and most cities started requiring them for all citizens in public places. Ducey also ordered all bars, gyms, water parks and movie theaters to close, and reduced the number of people allowed to dine in restaurants.

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By Aug. 7, new COVID-19 cases in Arizona had declined by 75 percent, the CDC says.

“Widespread implementation and enforcement of sustained community mitigation measures, including mask wearing, informed by state and local officials’ continual data monitoring and collaboration can help prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and decrease the numbers of COVID-19 cases,” the CDC said.

Based on this report, mask mandates and business closures will reduce the spread of COVID-19, they said.

“Enhanced mitigation measures should be implemented by communities and persons to slow COVID-19 spread, particularly before a vaccine or therapeutic treatment becomes widely available,” the CDC said.

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