This Former "Red Zone" State Now Has the Lowest Infection Rate in the U.S.

Arizona is a shining example of just how successful mitigation efforts can be against COVID.

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The spread of COVID-19 across the United States was truly dire at the start of the summer. In fact, in July, a White House document was leaked that listed nearly 40 percent of U.S. states as being in the "red zone" because they had more than 100 new weekly cases per 100,000 people and/or a positive test rate above 10 percent. Many of those former hotspots have started to curb the spread of coronavirus, but one of those "red zone" states in particular has made a remarkable turnaround, effectively going from worst to first. Yes, Arizona can now boast that it has the lowest COVID infection rate in the entire nation.

The website rt.live measures how states are managing their COVID outbreaks by tracking their infection rates, or Rt value, which is "the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person," the site explains. "If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading."

As of Aug. 24, Arizona has the lowest Rt value in the entire nation with 0.76. By comparison, Hawaii has been struggling with the highest infection rate nationwide at 1.23.

arizona map shows covid outbreak
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Earlier this summer, as daily cases raged across many Sun Belt states, four in particular were consistently described as being the worst of the worst: California, Texas, Florida, and yes, Arizona.

But Arizona turned it around in a remarkably efficient manner—so much so that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Robert Redfield, MD, recently gave the state a shoutout during an online interview with the Journal of American Medical Associates (JAMA) on Aug. 20. Redfield praised Arizona for following the CDC's guidelines and bringing cases down.

Four weeks after some cities issued a mask mandate and after Gov. Doug Ducey paused Arizona's reopening plans and even shut some businesses down again at the end of June, Arizona saw its COVID surge peak on July 1 and then steadily come down, The Washington Post reports. "Some people can say, 'See nothing works,'" Redfield said. "But [Arizona] stayed with it, and now you've seen the progressive drop and Arizona is really moving in the right direction."

Similarly, in an interview with CNN on Aug. 6, Anthony Fauci, MD, praised Arizona, too. "We saw in Arizona, which was a good example, they went up [in cases] and they started to really clamp down and do things right. And the cases came right down," he said.

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Now, as of Aug. 23, Arizona had just 203 new cases, according to The New York Times data—that's 24 times lower than its peak at the start of July.

Considering where Arizona once stood in terms of COVID numbers, it's even more impressive that the state now has the lowest infection rate in the U.S. So, anyone exhausted by the never-ending stream of discouraging news can now take solace from Arizona's example, and the genuine evidence that the CDC guidelines will work if they're followed. For more on Redfield's interview and other states effectively managing infections, check out These States Have Started to "Turn the Tide" on COVID, CDC Director Says.

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