PLEASE NOTE UPDATE ON 6/8/20 at the end of this article.
Ongoing analysis of Governor Ducey’s COVID-19 pressers:
May 29th: Governor Ducey addressed Arizona regarding the COVID-19 epidemic on Thursday, May 28th, and once again, lied and elided his way through the press conference.
One statement stood out above all the rest (video begins at relevant section at 4:01) is Ducey’s assertion that Arizona has ever met, and continues to meet the White House gating criteria for reopening. Earlier in the presser he says, “We will continue to have our decision informed by data and by public health.” That is untrue. Ducey’s decisions are being dictated by politics, and only thinly justified in reference to data which he manipulates, lies about, or selectively ignores.
Gov. Ducey continues to wrongly assert that Arizona meets the White House gating criteria. We did not meet the criteria last week, and we continue to fail to meet those criteria. Now, however, it is even more clear-cut that Arizona does not meet the gating criteria in that even the percentage of positive tests, which Ducey had relied upon previously to justify reopening, is no longer trending down, but up.
A slide from Ducey’s 5/28 presentation.
The percentage of positive tests has risen from 5.1% in the week of May 3rd, to 6% in the week of May 10th, and then again to 6.8% in the week of May 17th. The Governor admits this (actually misstating the final number as 8%, rather than 6.8%), but does not mention the fact that this entirely undermines his position that Arizona meets the ‘declining cases or percentage of positive tests over two weeks’ gating criterion. He was not honest in making that argument in the first place, but now his lie is even more nakedly exposed. Again, no one in the press called him on this.
Compare this slide to the comparable slide from Ducey’s 5/21 presentation:
Note that the reported number of positive tests has been altered for the week of May 10th through the 17th. Between the two charts above, the rate of positive tests on the week of May 10th through 17th has been revised from 3%, upward to 6% on the more recent chart. This could be an innocent artifact of data collection. In either case, it does not represent a decline as the Governor previously claimed, but a clear increase. Yet, curiously, the Governor does not retract his prior assertion that Arizona meets the gating criteria on the basis of the previously claimed decline in the percentage of positive cases.
And what has happened to the number of PCR tests administered over the past several weeks? Both charts appear to document a plunge in the number of PCR tests given since May 10th. It seems that despite the ‘testing blitz’, the number of PCR tests administered over the past two weeks has collapsed from almost 50K a week to well under 12.5K. What is going on there? No one in the press room inquires as to why.
Ducey is now promising steps that the White House plan classifies as Phase 2 actions, such as restarting group sports and reopening schools, despite his false insistence that we remain in Phase 1, when we should, in fact, be in Phase 0.
And, of course, Ducey continues to refuse to model proper epidemic etiquette by refusing to mask up in public.
The bottom line is that Arizona is still not ready to open according to the very gating criteria Ducey claims are guiding his decisions.
- We do NOT have a falling number of cases or positive test results for COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks in Arizona – hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are actually rising, and the rate of percentage of positive tests is again rising;
- Our ICU utilization rate is still TOO HIGH to safely reopen – Arizona has not fallen below 80% usage since 5/11 and has not maintained a rate below 80% over 7 consecutive days as required by CDC’s guidance on the gating criteria;
- Our testing program is NOT sufficiently “robust” to proceed – at last, or nearly last, in the nation, our testing capacity is not sufficient to track the spread of the disease as we lessen social distancing, and the number of PCR tests given has fallen precipitously over the past few weeks.
UPDATE 6/8/20: It seems that AZDCS had a data reporting issue that resulted in the reporting of an extra 650 filled ICU beds and ~2200 filled regular Inpatient beds. This error by AZDHS changes slightly the past and current utilization rate calculations. The error has been retroactively amended on the DHS COVID-19 dashboard, on which I had relied, and it now seems that Arizona’s utilization rate has been slightly under 80% and briefly over 80% over the past weeks. This above discussion of ICU utilization was therefore based on incorrect data provided by AZDHS. The underlying concern about hospital capacity remains valid, it is just slightly less dire than the data at the time indicated. MB