Arizona governor says mayors allowed to require face masks

A CVS COVID-19 testing area set up at St. Vincent de Paul medical clinic, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Phoenix. The state Department of Health Services posted on its website Monday another 1,104 cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths, bringing the statewide total number of coronavirus cases to 36,705 and related deaths to 1,194.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Arizona has hit an alarming new daily high of nearly 2,400 — almost double the previous record, health officials said Tuesday.

The state Department of Health Services reported 2,392 new cases and 25 additional deaths. Hospital intensive care units were hovering around 80% capacity with 1,307 people with the virus as of Monday.

A day earlier the state recorded 1,104 new cases and eight additional deaths. The number of hospitalizations was slightly higher with 1,449 patients. The number of hospitalizations each day has been at least 1,000 for more than two weeks straight.

Arizona has seen 39,097 cases and 1,219 deaths. It’s unclear how many of the new cases are due to expanded testing.

Cochise County had 241 cases and 5 deaths as of Tuesday, data from the state health website showed. Of those, 133 cases are still active. A total of 28 people have been hospitalized in the county, with 11 of those needing treatment in an ICU.

Gov. Doug Ducey has said hospitals would possibly forego elective surgeries if capacity was 80% or greater to save space for a COVID-19 surge. So far, though, there have been no indications that elective surgeries will be delayed.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society, in a joint effort with CVS Health, has started offering rapid, free virus testing for uninsured people by appointment at the nonprofit's clinic in Phoenix. The goal is to allow people from low-income and other disproportionately affected communities to be tested, with results provided on the spot.

Licensed health care providers who work for CVS are staffing the testing operation. CVS also announced last week it added 14 more retail drive-thru testing locations to 35 others already open in Arizona.

The number of new cases has leaped over the past two weeks. Ducey's stay-at-home order expired more than a month ago.

Arizona has drawn national attention as one of several emerging virus hot spots. Some experts have criticized Ducey and his administration for not doing more to stop the spread such as enforcing face masks and increasing contact tracing.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

In other developments:

—Nearly 700 Arizona doctors and other medical providers have signed a letter urging Ducey to mandate the use of face masks in public for anyone older than 2. The group states there is “sufficient, clear, scientific evidence” that wearing masks lessens the spread of the virus, ABC15.com reported. Patrick Ptak, the governor's spokesman, said Tuesday that COVID-19 remains the highest priority and the state recommended that everyone wear a face covering when out in public. The state will continue to remind people to follow public health guidelines, he said.

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