Covid-19 Cases Dropped by 75% in One State After Local Leaders Were Allowed to Require Masks

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey puts on his face mask during a news conference about the coronavirus, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Phoenix. (Cheryl Evan/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey puts on his face mask during a news conference about the coronavirus, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Phoenix. (Cheryl Evan/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool) Associated Press

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A CDC report said the drop followed a spike in cases in Arizona after the state's stay-at-home order expired, underscoring the utility of face coverings in curbing spread of the disease.

Covid-19 cases in Arizona increased by 151% after the expiration of a statewide stay-at-home order, then plummeted by 75% after city and county leaders were permitted to enforce local mask mandates, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those results underscore the effectiveness of face coverings in limiting the spread of the virus, though multiple mitigation efforts are necessary to corral the pandemic, researchers wrote.

“A combination of voluntary and enforceable measures is more effective than any single measure,” says the report, authored by officials from the Arizona Department of Health Services, including Dr. Cara Christ, its director. 

The report, released last week, analyzed the number of daily Covid-19 cases and seven-day moving averages in Arizona from Jan. 22 through Aug. 7. The roughly seven-month time period includes the state’s declaration of a public health state of emergency (March 11), school closures (March 15), and the implementation of a statewide stay-at-home order (March 31). The state began its phased reopening at the end of April and concluded its stay-at-home order on May 15. Two weeks later, cases began climbing—from 808 on June 1 to 2,026 on June 15.

Case counts continued to increase, peaking between June 29 and July 2, stabilizing between July 3 and July 13 and declining by approximately 75% between July 13 and August 7. The timing of the decrease, according to the report, coincides with the enactment of local mask mandates, which local officials “began implementing and enforcing...via county and city mandates” on June 17, affecting “approximately 85% of the state population.”

"Mitigation measures, including mask mandates, that are implemented and enforced statewide appear to have been effective in decreasing the spread of Covid-19 in Arizona," the report says.

What the report does not mention is that prior to June 17, county and city officials in Arizona lacked the authority to pass or enforce local mask mandates. Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, had before then refused to allow local leaders to enact their own policies, part of an executive order that stated that cities, counties and towns could not pass anything that “conflicts with or is in addition to” statewide restrictions (Arizona does not have a statewide mask mandate). 

Mayors across the state launched a social media campaign asking him to reconsider, either by passing his own statewide ordinance or giving them the authority to enact their own. On June 17, Ducey issued an “enhanced Covid-19 action plan,” which included a provision “allowing local governments to implement mask and face-covering policies and determine enforcement measures...to tailor mitigation efforts specific to the local public health need.” Multiple municipalities immediately enacted mask mandates, and cases stabilized roughly two weeks later, though hospitalizations continued to climb.

Other factors likely contributed to the decrease, the report notes. The steep dropoff in positive cases came roughly two weeks after Ducey paused the state’s reopening, ordering bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close. He also banned most public gatherings of more than 50 people and limited attendance at pools, and encouraged residents to wear masks, though stopped short of requiring them. 

“In Arizona, decreases in daily Covid-19 cases were observed after widespread sustained community mitigation measures that promoted social distancing, limited large gatherings, paused operations of businesses where mask use and social distancing were difficult to maintain, mandated and enforced mask wearing, and promoted voluntary resident actions to stay at home and wear masks,” the report says.

Travel restrictions and mitigating measures in neighboring states may also have helped slow the spread of the virus, researchers said, but “enhanced mitigation measures” were likely the primary driver.

“Enhanced mitigation measures should be implemented by communities and persons to slow Covid-19 spread, particularly before a vaccine or therapeutic treatment becomes widely available,” the report concludes. “State, local, and tribal officials are best positioned to continually monitor data and collaborate to determine the level and types of enhanced mitigation required.”

The report adds to a growing body of research that supports face masks as an effective way to reduce the spread of the virus, as well as potentially reduce the severity of infection among people who contract the disease. 

But leaders in more than a dozen states are still resisting mask mandates, even as cases spike in their jurisdictions. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, for example, has declined to require masks despite pleas from doctors, though cases have risen steadily there since July

Burgum has emphasized masks as an essential part of combating Covid, but said he fears a backlash if there is a state requirement, as many North Dakotans celebrate their individual freedoms. "We've had a great track record so far of relying on personal responsibility, and I guess I'm still hoping in my heart of hearts that North Dakota can step up and figure out a way to get it done (through) local leadership and local execution," Burgum said last month.

South Dakota, where cases have been increasing since mid-September, reported 876 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, its largest single-day total ever. Gov. Kristi Noem, who has refused to pass a statewide mask policy, said the surge was “normal...natural...expected” given the state’s increased testing capabilities, the Rapid City Journal reported.

On Sunday, nine states—Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Wyoming—reported record-high hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients. Only four of those require residents to wear masks in public.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: Are Americans Losing Trust in the FDA?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.