PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona has the fastest confirmed spread of coronavirus in the world, according to The New York Times. Wednesday’s eye-opening article has been shared all over social media.
"Arizona is #1," the headline reads, though it’s not a competition anyone wants to be winning. The accompanying graph lists U.S. states in comparison to entire countries. No country on the planet has a faster spread of coronavirus than Arizona, Florida or South Carolina, The Times reports.
Dr. Shad Marvasti, a University of Arizona College of Medicine public health professor, says yes, things are as bad as this article makes them seem.
“It is as bad with respect to how fast COVID-19 is expanding and growing in terms of numbers of new infections,” he said.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s office sent us a response, saying the data in the article is “misleading and inaccurate.” Spokesman Patrick Ptak wrote the following context:
Testing - if you aren’t testing, it doesn’t mean you have fewer cases, just that you know less about them.
For example, AZ has done 8,615 test per 100K. Brazil has done 1,435.
Arizona has been working hard to increase testing, with more on the way.
Daily Testing - In fact, Brazil is currently testing 0.025 per 100k people per day. By contrast, yesterday, Arizona reported 12,212 tests (and this was far from our highest day in the past week), which works out to 167 tests per 100K on that one day alone.
Dr. Marvasti says there is truth in that statistical nuance, and that you can slice the numbers different ways to get different takeaways. But no matter how you slice it, our numbers are going up.
“[The testing rate] doesn’t replace the fact on the ground that we’re over 90% ICU capacity. Our hospitals are full,” he said.
The Times article acknowledges poorer countries would likely appear on the list if they were to test more. But Dr. Steffen Eikenberry, a post-doctoral mathematics scholar at Arizona State University, says Arizona’s spending on testing is close to normal, not an outlier; it’s certainly not the factor that put us at the top of the chart. Marvasti hopes the data in the Times article serves as a PSA to Arizonans and our policymakers alike.
“I think that if anyone wasn’t taking this seriously or considering that coronavirus is not something that’s important or relevant to your life in Arizona, please think again,” he said.
“None of this is to diminish the situation in Arizona – it is serious and the state is working to address it,” Ptak wrote.
Marvasti hopes that the ever-growing spotlight on Arizona will lead policymakers to put out even stricter public health mandates in what he says is the place that needs them most.
“This is another reason to take it seriously, and be humble about all this,” he said.