Gov. Doug Ducey is recommending Arizonans wear masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19, but he stopped short of issuing a statewide mandate, Cronkite News reported. Instead, Ducey on Wednesday said city and county governments can implement and enforce their own mandates. Governor Doug Ducey (R-Arizona): COVID-19 Briefing - June 17, 2020

Cronkite News: Case numbers shatter daily record set four days earlier

Cronkite News

PHOENIX –  Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona rose by nearly 2,400 on Monday alone, breaking Friday’s record of 1,600 by almost 50%, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

As of Tuesday, June 16, health officials reported 39,097 cases of COVID-19 and 1,219 deaths in the state. There have been 489,286 tests for COVID-19 completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and 7.1% of them have come back positive for the virus.

The spike in positive cases comes several weeks after the May 15 lifting of Arizona’s stay-at-home orders, when businesses began reopening, and Memorial Day weekend, when many Arizonans left their homes to celebrate.

“It would be preposterous to think that people going out aren’t increasing the positive cases,” Dr. Murtaza Akhter of the University of Arizona College of Medicine told Cronkite News on Tuesday. “One of my concerns is whether people are ever going to take public health emergencies seriously.”

He is among the national experts who are raising an alarm about the rising number of cases in Arizona and a handful of other states, but Akhter’s worry is that these “huge jumps” in recent statistics suggest that positive cases haven’t yet reached their peak.

“The cases will continue to increase,” he said. “And the peak of cases isn’t necessarily the peak of sickness and hospitalizations. You can test positive and still take a week to develop the worst of your symptoms.”

As hospitals face alarming numbers of COVID-19 patients and are “nearing the edge” of being overwhelmed, Akhter advised people with symptoms, such as fever and a dry cough, to visit a drive-thru testing station, or an urgent care provider if they need medicine for their symptoms. Only go to a hospital with severe symptoms or any difficulty breathing to help mitigate the workload of emergency rooms, he urged.

At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey stood firm on his decision to reopen the state and said Arizona is prepared to “expect the worst.”

Judge orders prompt release of tribal aid
A federal judge ruled late Monday that the Treasury Department must release $679 million of the $8 billion CARES Act funds allocated to the nation’s indigenous tribes, KTAR reports. The funds were withheld after a Kansas tribe objected to the methodology of the first distribution of $4.8 billion in May. Judge Amit Mehta of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Treasury to distribute the withheld funds by Wednesday.

There have been two multibillion-dollar distributions of CARES Act funds to aid tribes, several of which have reported high case incidences and deaths per capita due to the pandemic. The most recent distribution included an $86 million payment to the hard-hit Navajo Nation, President Jonathan Nez said.

Navajo Nation reinstates 57-hour curfew for next two weekends
President Jonathan Nez announced in a Facebook town hall Tuesday that the tribe will reinstate the 57-hour weekend curfew in response to the skyrocketing number of positive cases in Arizona and on the reservation. It has been several weeks since the curfew was in effect.

“Tourists, please do not come through the Navajo (lands). Now is not the time to be traveling. Please stay home,” Nez said. The sweeping reservation touches New Mexico, Utah and Arizona and is  flanked by scenic national forests and parks, including the Grand Canyon.

Casino security worker dies after testing positive for COVID-19
Robert Washington, who worked as a security guard at Gila River Lone Butte Casino near Chandler, died from COVID-19 last week, AZfamily reported. Despite his concerns of COVID-19, Washington, a diabetic and cancer survivor, went back to work May 15, when businesses began to reopen, because he couldn’t afford insulin treatments. Washington’s daughter Lina also called on Ducey and other leaders to encourage the public to wear masks.

How to help
The Navajo Nation has established an official GoFundMe account to help respond to the pandemic. Contributions to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief Fund can be made here.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit

Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News as COVID-19 in Arizona: Case numbers break daily record set four days earlier on June 16 and as COVID-19 in Arizona: Medical professionals urge mask mandateCreative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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