Summer fun is officially on pause.
First came a local response to school and business shutdowns. Then came local ordinances on masks.
Last week, West Valley cities scrambled again, after Gov. Doug Ducey’s June 29 proclamation banning large public gatherings: Goodyear and Litchfield Park canceled July 4 fireworks shows.
“In addition to the cancellation of the event, the city is also closing the Goodyear Community Park splash pad at 3151 N. Litchfield Road which will go into effect until further notice,” said Tammy Vo, a Goodyear spokeswoman.
The Goodyear pool, however, remains open (see Page 24).
Just days before the Fourth, a fireworks show at The Wigwam resort in Litchfield Park was canceled.
“After great thought and consideration, we believe that this is in the best interest of our guests, employees and the community,” The Wigwam announced.
Avondale, which did not plan a fireworks show due to COVID-19, also rushed to action after Ducey’s stark words. “Cases and hospitalizations will be worse next week and the following week,” Ducey said.
The governor ordered bars, gyms, movie theaters, waterparks and tubing rentals “must pause operations.”
He pleaded: “Stay home if you can.”
Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise was listening.
“Avondale supports the measures announced by the governor. We urge all our residents to follow the public health guidance that will keep them and our community safe and slow the spread of this illness,” Weise said.
The day after Ducey’s announcement, Avondale canceled all organized activities at its parks—including on sports fields and at picnic ramada rentals—through July.
In addition to canceling all sports league and tournament activities at city parks, Avondale closed the American Sports Centers until July 27.
“At this time, playgrounds, splash pads, dog parks, and the skatepark at Festival Fields will remain open with strict adherence to CDC social distancing practices,” Weise said.
“Avondale police and park rangers will be enforcing these restrictions.”
Avondale, Goodyear and Buckeye will continue to allow the public to watch council meetings online—but the public may not attend meetings in person.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, council meetings are closed to the public,” the July 6 Goodyear City Council agenda said.
Virus on the rise
The number of COVID-19 cases in the West Valley, county and state leaping dramatically in the last few weeks—before a holiday weekend that local and national health experts worry will exacerbate the problem—has some wondering if anything can be done to stop the spread.
One simple thing will do the trick, a Phoenix emergency room doctor says: Wear a mask.
“Masks dramatically decrease the transmission of COVID-19,” Dr. Murtaza Akhter said.
A clinical assistant professor in emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Akhter did a research fellowship in 2015 in Neurological Emergencies at Harvard Medical School.
He said he is confident masks can reduce the spread of coronavirus by up to 80%. “If you came up with a medicine that decreased transmission by 80%, you’d win the Nobel Prize,” he said.
Akhter said the number of patients he is seeing at Valleywise Health in Phoenix with COVID-19 is accelerating.
“In the Phoenix area, hospitals for the last few months have seen a dramatic increase in patients coming in (with COVID-19),” he said.
ICU beds in use in the state went above 90% for the first time July 3, rising from the 86-89% range over the last week to 91%. Inpatient bed capacity remained 85%. In the county, 3,204 new COVID-19 positive tests were reported, with 24 more deaths from coronavirus, bringing county deaths from the disease to 825.
In the last week, 17,981 positive COVID-19 tests were reported by Maricopa County, 71% of the state’s 25,400 new cases. The county has averaged 2,500 new COVID-19 cases per day over the last week.
“It’s going to get worse,” Ducey recently warned—and Akhter agrees.
“I do think it’s going to get worse based on what I’m seeing on the ground. It seems to match up with what the data are suggesting—it’s really bad,” he said.
While Akhter sees patients in the emergency room with COVID-19 who have a variety of symptoms, “What you’re most concerned about is how well this person is breathing. People are struggling to breathe,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s severe enough that we need a big machine (ventilator), which is risky. We have to intubate them and have a breathing machine breathe for them.”
While by far the highest number of deaths have been in the 65-and-older group, Akhter noted, “Younger and healthier patients can also get very sick and be in the hospital for long lengths of stay” from COVID-19.
Akhter said he understands people have been reluctant to wear masks but is confident that will change.
“With smoking in public, we had a cultural shift on that and then it was better,” he said. “I’m hoping we have a cultural shift on masks.”