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Trump mentions Arizona’s COVID-19 spike, saying it’s now gone. But state faces fastest spread since June

Rachel Leingang Arizona Republic

(CNT) City News And Talk #arizona

In the first few minutes of Thursday’s final presidential debate, President Donald Trump brought up Arizona, a state his campaign regularly visits as it courts voters in the purpling state.

Trump defended his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming the situation around the virus is improving and mentioning treatments he had access to when he contracted the disease earlier this month.

“There was a very big spike in Arizona, it’s now gone,” Trump said. 

In fact, the disease is now spreading at its fastest rate here since June, just before the state became a COVID-19 epicenter this summer.

In Arizona, daily case counts, hospitalizations, percent positivity, ventilators in use and the rate at which the virus spreads have all increased in recent weeks. Nearly 6,000 Arizonans have died from COVID-19 so far. About 235,000 Arizonans have tested positive.

Many other states that did not see the dramatic case levels Arizona saw this summer are now facing their first large spikes. Arizona’s case levels and hospitalizations are still much lower than they were at their peak in June and July. 

But the state’s pandemic situation is on a critical precipice, state health officials and outside experts warned this week. Arizonans’ actions will decide the fate of the next few weeks and the severity of a next potential spike.

In a blog post on the Arizona Department of Health Services’ website Thursday, Dr. Cara Christ, the agency’s director, noted that Arizonans shouldn’t let their guards down and should continue to wear masks, distance and wash their hands. 

“While our state is not currently experiencing a surge to the degree other locations are experiencing right now, we have recently seen a shift of COVID-19 spread in the state in the wrong direction,” Christ wrote. 

Trump and Joe Biden, the former vice president and Democratic candidate, met in Nashville at Belmont University for the final debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker. The debate included discussions of national security, foreign policy, COVID-19, health care, the economy, immigration, racism and policing, climate change and the environment.

Trump’s comments on Arizona and COVID-19 came as he and Biden, volleyed over how Trump handled the pandemic, and how a Biden administration would have handled it.

Trump has claimed the country is “rounding the corner” on COVID-19, noting improved mortality rates and scientific discoveries of treatments and potential vaccines.

Biden implored Americans to think of those they have lost to the disease while pointing to how the Trump administration has mishandled the crisis.

“We’re about to go into a dark winter, and he has no clear plan,” Biden said.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a dark winter at all,” Trump retorted.

Trump continues comments Arizona’s COVID-19 situation

It wasn’t the first time Trump mentioned Arizona’s handling of the pandemic. 

In August, Gov. Doug Ducey traveled to the White House, where Trump praised the governor’s actions to rein in the state’s cases and hospitalizations after a harsh spike that made Arizona one of the worst outbreaks in the world at the time.

“He was hit very hard, and he hit back even harder,” Trump said of the governor’s leadership at that time.

Ducey has joined Trump and other campaign visitors several times as they came to Arizona this election season to rally voters.

After Arizona’s extreme spike in June and July, which saw several thousand cases per day, the state declined steadily through September. They started ticking up again in October, though the numbers are still much lower than the summer’s peaks.

But the White House’s own weekly coronavirus reports show Arizona’s trends are worsening, not improving.

On Oct. 4, the report placed Arizona in the “yellow zone” for new cases and said trends were stable. By the Oct. 18 report, Arizona had worsened to the “orange zone” because of increasing new cases. Test positivity and hospital admissions also increased. Arizona was 39th in the country for its new case rate over the previous week, and 29th in the country for test positivity rate, according to the most recent report.