“When we can circumscribe an area, we can do things that are very targeted,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the county’s chief medical officer. “When the U of A was an issue, we knew where the high-rises were. We knew where the dorms were. We knew where the social environments were.”
The county shut down places such as pools, spas and gyms at apartment buildings in a specific geographic area near the university.
And the county partnered with the university to issue a shelter-in-place recommendation for students living in that area.
“I think that was what contained that surge and actually limited it from spreading through the community,” said Bonnie LaFleur, a biostatistician at the University of Arizona.
The ongoing spike is so widespread, however, that these same tactics won’t work, Garcia said.
“That’s way harder to do on this kind of level,” he said. “You just can’t do that for the entire county. … We’re talking about a landmass the size of the state of New Hampshire. How do you possibly enforce stuff like that?”
Not only that, but Gov. Doug Ducey has limited the county’s options to combat COVID-19, he said.
“We really are limited by the governor’s executive order, except with regards to our mandatory mask mandate. We really cannot do things that are more stringent than what the governor has set forth,” Garcia said.
Ducey said last week that he has no plans to issue restrictions beyond existing ones that include limits on occupancy at bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms. Meanwhile, the widespread nature of this spike has required Pima County to combat the virus in new ways.