On March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced coronavirus or COVID-19 a pandemic. This means there is widespread human infection of COVID-19 around the world. Currently the U.S has approximately 80,000 cases with more than 1000 deaths, with Arizona having 450 cases with several deaths out of the 826 they have tested. Arizona has taken some public health measures to try and contain COVID-19 with initially giving recommendation to Arizonians to stay inside and work from home if possible.
While public health approaches are being taken in Arizona, they may not the correct ones for the intensity of this situation and the stage we are at with COVID-19.
First of all, we need to test. Testing will help guide us on what public health approaches to take. Getting a test right now in Arizona, like in many states, is very difficult. In order to get a test you must be very sick, thus most cases counted in Arizona, similar to many states, are only cases of patients that are very sick. This means that while there is “only” 450 cases of coronavirus out of the 826 people tested, there are most likely hundreds of more patients who are out there, either with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic that can transmit the virus to others. If we can’t do tests, we need take to into consideration that there are many more, if not hundreds of more cases than those currently reported, just like the data suggests. We need to remember very clearly that someone who is asymptomatic can have COVID-19 and transmit it. This is one of the biggest threats of COVID-19.
Just recently in this past week Governor Ducey extended his executive order to assist in flattening the curve and decreasing the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona. This expansion included the closure of all non-essential business. In many states this means only healthcare facilities, public health facilities, limited groceries stores and other services like water, electricity and garbage services will remain open. For Arizona, according to the Office of the Governor Doug Ducey, essential business includes:
- Health care and public health operations, including hospitals, public health entities, distributors of personal protective equipment and biotechnology companies;
- Human services operations, including those that provide services for the elderly, those with developmental disabilities, foster and adoption children and the homeless;
- Infrastructure operations, including food production, utility operators, construction and internet providers;
- Government functions, including first responders, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, child protection staff, welfare providers and more;
- Business operations, including grocery and medicine providers, outdoor recreation;
- Organizations that provide charitable and social services, including religious and secular non-profit organizations and food banks;
- Media organizations, including newspaper, television, radio and other media services;
- Gas stations and other transportation-related businesses;
- Financial institutions, including banks and credit unions;
- Hardware and supply stores;
- Critical trades, including plumbers, electricians, cleaning, sanitation, HVAC and security staff;
- Mail, post, shipping and logistics;
- Education institutions, including public and private K-12 schools, universities and research entities;
- Laundry services;
- Restaurants for consumption off-premises;
- Supplies distributors that enable telework and work from home and those that supply essential businesses;
- Transportation, including airlines, taxis, and ride-sharing;
- Home-based and care services, including for seniors and those with developmental disabilities;
- Residential facilities and shelters, including those for children, seniors or at-risk populations;
- Professional services, including legal, real estate and accounting services;
- Personal services, including personal hygiene services;
- Day care centers for employees exempted though the order;
- Manufacturers, distribution and producers of supply chain-critical products;
- Hotels and motels;
- And funeral services
For Arizona, essential businesses, means more than the necessary. And while some of these “essential services,” on the list can work from home, most of them cannot. If we are not going to test we need to follow the data and take in mind that there are hundreds more cases, than just 450. With that information our public health measures should be a “stay at home” order or only have essential businesses open, these being, only healthcare facilities, public health facilities, specific groceries stores, and other services like water, electricity and garbage services, not what we have right now. We need to do this for our healthcare professionals who are starting to be overwhelmed with the amount of cases coming to the hospitals and medical facilities. We need to do this for our immunocompromised population, young and old. We need to do this for our Arizonians with pre-existing conditions, young and old. We need to do it for our elderly population.
Arizona needs to stop being reactive and instead be proactive. Arizona is reacting to the numbers day by day instead of being proactive and trying to prevent more cases.