Health officials explain uptick in Arizona's COVID-19 cases.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- Top health officials in Arizona are weighing in on the spike of COVID-19 cases in the state. Here are the latest numbers.

Both Dr. Cara Christ, the director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, and Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine the medical director of disease control for Maricopa County, spoke publicly about the increase on Wednesday.

Last week Governor Doug Ducey said the increase was not unexpected. “When you see an increase in testing, you will see an increase in cases,” he said.

In an interview with Arizona’s Family this week, Dr. Christ said as they test more people they'll find more cases. She also said that reopening does play a role because people are now out in the community and there’s more opportunity for the virus to spread.

“We know that we’re testing more people so we’re finding more cases,” Dr. Christ said. “But as we open up and people are in the community, we know that people… COVID-19 is still in our community and it’s going to spread.”

Dr. Christ did say they are keeping a careful eye on the rate of increase because that has been sharper than expected.

Meanwhile in a news conference with other county officials, Dr. Sunenshine said the numbers show them there is sustained community-wide spread of coronavirus. She said they are getting reports of almost 600 cases per day, in comparison to just an average of 200 cases per day about two weeks ago. That means they have had 27% of all county cases during the pandemic in the last week, Dr. Sunenshine said.

“The reason why we know this increase isn't just from doing more testing is because the percentage of positive tests that are coming back has risen,” Dr. Sunenshine said. “Two weeks ago it was 5% and now it's up to 9%. We’re still waiting for the latest numbers to finalize, but it looks like they may continue to increase.”

At one point during the news conference Dr. Sunenshine showed how to properly use a mask. "We all have a role in slowing the spread and preserving our health care system," she said. A few months ago she did not routinely wear masks in public, but her position has changed, and there’s mounting scientific evidence that a well-fitted cloth mask can prevent coronavirus from spreading.

“There’s even some evidence showing that the person wearing the cloth face mask can decrease their exposure by around 60%, particularly if the mask is made well and fists well,” Dr. Sunenshine said “And there is lots of evidence to show that it protects the people around the person wearing the mask.”

Maricopa County officials say it’s now mandatory for its employees to wear masks at work if they can not maintain physical distancing. They are urging everyone in the state to wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick or if someone you live with tests positive for COVID-19, stay 6 feet away from others, and, if that’s not possible, wear a mask in public.

Meanwhile when asked if the state opened too early, Dr. Christ maintained that it did not. “We are doing a phased in approach,” Dr. Christ said. “I don't think we opened too early. I think people took it as we're completely open and we're not. Bars are still not open. Overnight camps are still not open. There are things that shouldn't be operating.”

“And one of the things in the executive order is that businesses are supposed to put mechanisms and plans in place with physical distancing to ensure they are implementing those CDC guidelines,” she said.

Physical distancing is not always happening in public places, and video shows crowded bars in places like Scottsdale. Dr. Christ says they are encouraging businesses to do what they can to keep that physical distancing.


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