It’s getting worrying here in Arizona, folks.
Luckily, the protests have remained peaceful without police backlash. So my friend who has protested twice now probably thinks I’m horribly paranoid because I — who have seen quite a few videos of truly terrible police behavior — keeping give her advice like, “Don’t wear contacts in case of tear gas.” and “Don’t drink any water handed to you by a stranger! Some people put antifreeze in water bottles in one city.”
In fact, things have de-escalated to the point that Phoenix PD apparently had taken off the riot gear on Friday night. So that’s a promising sign.
Still, I’m afraid that violence could erupt at any minute when the police realize that the protesters aren’t going anywhere. Because Arizona — Phoenix especially — has one of the worst rates of police-involved deaths in the country. So clearly the police force isn’t this sanguine all of the time.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are on a huge uptick in the state. The last week of May, there were 200 to 300 new cases a day. This past Friday (June 6th) saw 1,579. Sunday it was a little under 1,200. Monday had 1,400-something. Wednesday saw 1,556 new cases. Again, two weeks ago it was 200-300 a day.
Politicians are crediting this surge to the “testing blitzes” that they arranged. They say the increase in testing is obviously going to increase the number of cases diagnosed.
That would make sense except… They’ve been doing the blitzes for five straight Saturdays — since the first weekend in May — and it’s only the last two weeks that cases have skyrocketed. Meaning infections started surging a couple of weeks after reopening, even though widespread testing had begun weeks before. Hard to believe then that this surge is due solely to more testing.
And unlike some states, Arizona isn’t telling people to get tested regularly with or without symptoms/exposure. So folks are only getting tested if they have symptoms or believe they were exposed to the coronavirus.
So even if testing is way up, to me that still indicates that there’s a big uptick in cases, not just reported cases.
Which isn’t surprising.
It seems like people here are going back to life as normal. My friends have reported seeing crowded restaurants/businesses, and media pictures have shown bars/clubs where people are nearly shoulder to shoulder. And you know people aren’t wearing masks to eat and drink.
Even at the best time, we had maybe 60-70% of people wearing masks. Even those vaguely halcyon days are over. When I’ve been out on errands, maybe — MAYBE — a third of the people were wearing masks. The last time I was in the grocery store, I counted five mask-wearing customers, and I saw at least 30 people while I was there.
As a side note, before anyone goes blaming the protesters, it’s too soon for an explosion from that. Besides, my friend said that at least 99% of the protesters are wearing masks. There are people actually handing them out at the events. And while protesters aren’t keeping a full six feet apart, they’re apparently trying to maintain some distance.
Plus they’re out in the open air, which helps. And they’re not ending the nights crammed into jail cells or buses/vans the way protesters have been in some cities. And since the police aren’t using tear gas or pepper spray — thank god — no one is having to rip off their masks and cough violently.
So it looks like the protests are about as safe as you can reasonably get. Which is something, at least.
But still, as more and more people go back to life as usual, this is going to get ugly.
Hospital bed usage was at 87% last Friday. Apparently, part of this was due to the resumption of elective surgeries. According to one article I read, only about 22% were actually from COVID-19 cases — and ventilator usage was mercifully only at 34% at the time — but a bed occupied for any reason is one less that will be available as COVID-19-infected patients start flooding the hospitals.
In fact, despite multiple quotes from the governor and even the health department assuring us that the increased numbers of cases are expected and not too concerning, the Arizona Department of Health Services apparently sent out a letter to local hospitals telling them to start activating their emergency plans, get surge bedding ready, etc. So clearly they’re more worried than they’re letting on.
And the largest hospital system in the state reported last week that its ICU beds are nearly at capacity. A fellow personal finance blogger in Mesa said that her friend couldn’t be admitted because they didn’t have a room. (She didn’t say which hospital this was at, but still…)
So as the increased cases mean more hospitalizations, things are going to get pretty bad.
We’re doing this for others
And of course those of us wearing masks are receiving minimal protection ourselves. As we keep being told, masks are more to prevent the spread if you’re infected than they are about keeping you from inhaling infected droplets from the air. So we careful folks are trying to protect everyone else, but we’re not getting the reciprocity needed to keep us safe.
And mask numbers will probably only get worse now that the WHO released the new information about asymptomatic spread being very rare. It’s worth noting that an analysis I read elsewhere said the organization was probably just trying to emphasize the importance of contacting tracing and — more importantly — was probably failing to differentiate between true asymptomatic people just pre-symptomatic ones. So please keep wearing masks folks.
No return to normal for me
So the only real option is for the people being careful to continue going out as little as possible, and keeping our distance when we visit friends.
I desperately want a haircut and color, but I’ve resigned myself to at least another month of roots and shaggy hair. It’s unclear from the site whether masks are required for people receiving haircuts/colors. But even if everyone’s wearing a mask, I irrationally feel that staying out in public for three hours is an unnecessary risk.
I also really want to resume my massages. The masseuse has OCD that focuses on germs, so I’m sure she’s sanitizing thoroughly and wearing a mask. Meanwhile, the business she works out of has a heavy-duty air filter. But as long as case numbers are skyrocketing like this, I doubt I’d be able to relax.
I’m just glad I sent Mom home when I did. Because people’s attitudes here are scary.
I had one guy contact me — one I’d been talking to before the pandemic — to see if I wanted to meet up. I told him no, the cases were going crazy. And he actually tried to argue the likelihood of my getting the disease.
Problem: He used the total number of diagnosed cases divided by the total state population. The entire population hasn’t been exposed yet, so you can’t use it to determine likelihood.
Obviously, we don’t know how many people have been exposed, so there’s no way to tell how likely you are to get the virus if you come into contact with it. Complicating things further, some people are apparently “super-shedders” of the virus while others put out a relatively small number of coronavirus particles.
Meanwhile, Arizona is averaging about a 4% death rate from diagnosed cases. Of course, there’s an unknown number of asymptomatic/untested cases, which skew that result… So let’s be generous and say on average there’s a 2% death rate for infections. But given that I had a disease that only one in every 100,000 people get (that’s 0.0001% of the entire world’s population), disease probability isn’t very comforting to me.
He also argued that New York and Las Vegas had both opened back up. As though “reopening” was the same as “safe” rather than just economically motivated.
Indicative of a larger trend
From what I’ve seen, a lot of people have a similar mindset as that guy. They figure their odds of getting it are low and might even think that reopening is a sure sign that the real danger has passed. And/or they figure that the odds of death are pretty unlikely, so it’s an okay risk.
Even if I didn’t probably have adult-onset asthma (I’m seeing a pulmonologist on the 23rd), which would put me in a higher-risk population, I’m not tempted to risk it.
So I’ll continue to hunker down.
I did go see my friend Kevin on Sunday, but he barely goes out — even having a lot of his groceries delivered — and is careful about distancing when people visit. And if my trivia team does come over, we’ll swelter out in the yard, with chairs I will have placed 6.5 feet apart.
So suffice it to say I won’t be eating in any restaurants or going to any bars for a long, long time.
How are things where you are? Are people’s activity levels worrying you?