Opinion

Herrington: As COVID surges in Arizona, CDC calls for masks when indoors in public

10 counties — including Maricopa — have high community levels

Posted 7/19/22

Community levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have moved up and down in many Arizona counties over the past few weeks.

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Opinion

Herrington: As COVID surges in Arizona, CDC calls for masks when indoors in public

10 counties — including Maricopa — have high community levels

Posted

Community levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have moved up and down in many Arizona counties over the past few weeks.

The latest CDC update has 10 counties, including Maricopa, with high COVID-19 community levels.

This means masks are recommended for public indoor settings.

The other counties with high COVID-19 community levels are Apache, Coconino, Gila, La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma. Only three counties had high community levels during the past week, while nine counties had high community levels the week before that.

These community levels reflect that COVID-19 remains active in our communities and that we should act accordingly. I shared earlier this week how the omicron subvariant BA.5 accounts for a rapidly growing share of sequenced COVID-19 cases in Arizona and that evidence suggests this subvariant is better at eluding immune protection offered by vaccination or previous infection.

In addition, immunity may begin to wane over the months after the last infection or vaccination.

These are among the reasons why it’s so important to keep your vaccine protection up to date. In May, unvaccinated individuals were eight times more likely to be hospitalized and 21 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated with a booster dose.

You’ll find convenient providers of safe, free and highly effective vaccines and booster doses at azhealth.gov/FindVaccine.

Community levels and mitigation recommendations take into account:

  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days; and
  • COVID-19’s impact on the area’s health care system in terms of: (1) new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 residents (seven-day total); and (2) the percentage of staffed inpatient beds used by COVID-19 patients (seven-day average).

Most of the counties at high community levels this week saw 10 or more new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 residents combined with 200 or more cases per 100,000 residents.

Because of their smaller populations and more limited health care capacities, rural counties will tend to see more frequent swings in their community levels.

Community levels for all counties can be found online at: cdc.gov.

Whatever the community level is in your area, we recommend assessing your risk and the risk of those around you when deciding on masks and other steps that reduce the spread.

Older people and those who have compromised immune systems are at greater risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.

Keeping hands washed and staying home if you feel sick are other proven ways to reduce the spread.

About the author

Don Herrington is interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services; he has been with the agency since 2000. Visit azdhs.gov.

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