Gov. Polis Says Colorado Is Watching COVID-19 Spikes In Arizona And Utah

Virus Outbreak Grand Canyon
Matt York/AP Photo
A social distancing sign is seen at the Grand Canyon Friday, May 15, 2020, in Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Colorado is closely watching some nearby states, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Utah and hospitalizations in Arizona continues to jump. Those spikes are alarming, Gov. Jared Polis said during a press briefing Thursday.

“A rising cause for concern,” he said. “We've seen no evidence yet of that leading to increased transmission on our side of the border, but we watch that and we worry."

Colorado has confirmed 28,647 cases of COVID-19, according to the state’s latest numbers. Officials have also reported 1,583 deaths related to the disease to date. But the state has seen a downward trend in hospitalizations for 11 of the last 14 days.

In Arizona, a surge of hospitalizations means the state is nearing capacity on ICU beds. The state has confirmed 31,264 cases of the disease and 1,127 deaths. Arizona’s stay-at-home order ended after May 15. Colorado’s went through April 26.

Apache County along the Four Corners region has Arizona’s highest case rate with around 2,628 cases per 100,000 people.

By comparison, Utah has confirmed 13,252 cases, a number that’s spiking. More than half those cases come from Salt Lake County near the center of the state. But San Juan County, which has Utah’s highest case rate (around 2,220 cases per 100,000 people), borders southwest Colorado. Utah’s death toll currently sits at 131, and its own stay-at-home order expired on May 1.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has instituted a "pause” on lifting any additional virus-related restrictions as the state’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests continues to skyrocket. The state epidemiologist said Thursday that the recent spike began over Memorial Day weekend and was likely caused by more people gathering while disregarding social distancing guidelines.

She and Herbert urged Utah residents to take precautions like wearing masks seriously. At least one prominent doctor has suggested the state may need to take a step back after a month of reopenings.

This week, city officials in Logan in northeastern Utah closed the library and the recreation center again for the foreseeable future.

According to the New York Times, Colorado’s case rate per 100,000 people is around 495, while Arizona’s is near 435 and Utah’s is around 405. 

As for Colorado’s other neighboring states, it’s a mixed bag. The cases in both Kansas and Nebraska are on the decline and they are mostly flat in Wyoming and Oklahoma. But New Mexico is in the same situation as Utah and Arizona with a rising number of cases. 

On Thursday, Polis again urged Coloradans to telecommute, to wear masks in public and to keep social distances in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He also pointed to a new study out of Great Britain that says widespread mask-wearing, paired with social distancing, could be critical to preventing future waves of the disease.

“It is a powerful and easy tool we have, a powerful and easy decision that you can make to save lives and get our economy going,” he said. “That life that you save might even be your own, it might be a loved one.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.