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What Arizona’s Tenuous Coronavirus Plateau Could Teach Us

Geography may also play a role. About 5.5 million of Arizona’s seven million residents — about three in four people — live in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, and Pima County, which includes Tucson. Both issued orders requiring face masks a little more than a month ago, in mid-June.

The Navajo Nation, hit by severe outbreaks in March and April, has also vigorously introduced measures such as mask mandates, checkpoints and curfews. The reservation, which spreads over parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has reported fewer than 50 new cases a day over the past week, compared with more than 170 a day a few weeks ago.

With prevention efforts on the rise, the vast majority of Arizonans have been living with mask mandates and more shutdowns for about a month, about the time experts say it takes to start seeing the effect of new policies.

By contrast, many of Florida’s 21 million residents are spread out across big and midsize cities, with overlapping city and county governments. With mask orders in place in many of the largest counties, and with a statewide limit on bars since late June, the state has shown some small declines in new cases in recent days for an average of 10,000 cases a day, down from 11,800 last week.

In Texas, whose 29 million residents are spread across 254 counties, Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars in late June and issued a statewide mask requirement about three weeks ago. The state is now averaging more than 9,000 cases a day, down from more than 10,000 a few days ago. In Houston, officials are seeing reason for hope amid a slight drop in hospitalizations, even as the virus has overwhelmed hospitals in other parts of Texas, including the border region known as the Rio Grande Valley.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we’re seeing a leveling off,” said Catherine Troisi, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, who said the combination of measures seemed to be working.

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