Here are some facts. Yesterday, King County, which has population 2.253 million, tested 3,157 people for the novel coronavirus, and 39 of those tests were positive. King County also had on that day 6 hospitalizations, and 0 deaths. (Seattle, the county's anchor city, has a population of 745,000, but yesterday reported 2 new cases, 2 hospitalizations, and 0 deaths.)
Let's look at Maricopa County in Arizona. It had 2,272 new coronavirus cases yesterday, and 27 deaths. The population Maricopa County, home of the city of Phoenix, is almost about double that of King County, 4.485 million. So, basically, if Maricopa County were King County, it would have 78 cases. King County is, however, still trending downward (though very slowly). Maricopa County is in the midst of an explosion of cases. Why? Because its economy was opened way too early (May 15). King County is only opening its economy on June 29. And some believe King County will remain in phase 2 for awhile.
Phoenix, on the other hand, is scrambling to put the cat back in the bag. This is a month after the state's Republican governor gave the virus the go-ahead to spread unchecked. It will be a long time before Pheonix, Maricopa County, and Arizona come close to being on top of the COVID-19. We can expect the infections to increase sharply and the hospital system to be overwhelmed in a few days (hospitals in Arizona have reached 84 percent capacity "in their ICU units, and 83 percent of general inpatient beds are occupied.") But here is the thing. On an ordinary day, nearly 20 flights arrive at Sea-Tac from Phoenix, the new coronavirus hot spot. [Read: note at end of post.]
Two months ago, I predicted this day would come. It was not, sadly, a hard prediction to make. One had to have the narrowest of blinkers not to see what was up ahead if you opened the economy early. It is not surprising at all that Florida, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and Arizona have given the virus much of the life it lost in New York, New Jersey, and Washington. But our borders are wide open. People from hot spots can easily fly into cold ones.
But that is just one of King County's numerous pandemic problems. Another is this: The cautious reopening of the economy may not work because it is still based on a plan that is dated. One has a feeling that many public officials failed to envision or evolve a reopening that was not, on the face of it, an appeasement to the demands of the business community. They have been stuck in a dream of a toothless phased reopening, which amounts to handing the money-hungry economy one bone at a time. But what this virus has said to us over and over is that it's indifferent to such appeasements.
Consider California, and specifically Santa Clara County, the home of Silicon Valley. That state, as with that county, has recently seen a rise in new cases, even after implementing what appears to be a cautious opening. Public health officials are now seriously considering going back to phase zero. And Governor Gavin Newsom is rushing to impose face masks on the whole state. But it seems the only action that can stop the spread of the virus effectively is one that's totally indifferent to the cries of the business community. At some point, the US government will have to stuff its ears with wax to confront and properly defeat COVID-19.
Note: The information on flights from Phoenix has proved hard to pin down. My first estimate of 40+ was based on flights from Phoenix scheduled for the first week of July. But because I could not verify that estimate, and also the high number might be a result of the holiday, I've decided to stick with the flights announced by the Port of Seattle. On June 24, that number was 17.