Arizona health officials continue to plan for dire scenario as virus spreads

Apr 7, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 8:20 am
(Getty Images/Sean Gallup)...
(Getty Images/Sean Gallup)
(Getty Images/Sean Gallup)

PHOENIX — In their efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, Arizona health officials are planning for the worst-case scenario despite some potentially positive modeling data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

“If the IHME data ends up being correct… That would be fantastic for Arizona,” Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Jessica Rigler told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

The IHME projects on its website that Arizona COVID-19 deaths in will peak on April 23 at 17 deaths per day.

The research institute predicts that 17 Arizonans will continue to die each day until April 29, when it is expected that 16 will die.

May 28 is the first day the IHME projects Arizona will record zero coronavirus-related deaths.

The potentially promising data does not change the state’s approach to COVID-19, according to Rigler.

“We’re making sure we continue to plan for a worst case scenario,” Rigler said.

Rigler went on to describe Arizona’s worst case scenario as “a little unknown at this time” before quoting a colleague who described a shortage of 13,000 hospital beds as being dire for the state.

At the same time IHME projects Arizona will face its peak of COVID-19 deaths, the research institute expects Arizona to have more than 6,000 medical beds available — 856 short of what the state will need.

Of the 856 medical beds the state is expected to need, IHME predicts 177 will be Intensive Care Unit beds.

As to whether or not Gov. Doug Ducey’s statewide stay-at-home executive order is having a positive impact on such positive projections or the health of Arizonans in general, the AZDHS assistant director said it’s too soon to know.

“We’re definitely not anticipating seeing a decrease in the percentage of new cases… Until the next week or so,” Rigler said.

Rigler continued by saying that many Arizona residents were practicing social distancing and working remotely prior to Ducey’s order, which she believes has had a great effect on Arizona’s overall COVID-19 statistics.

In addition to residents doing their part to flatten the coronavirus curve, Rigler is optimistic about the work being accomplished in the state’s health care facilities.

“One of the things that has been most encouraging to me over the last several weeks is the strong network of health care facilities across our state and their coordination with public health.”

Arizona’s best chance of success against the coronavirus outbreak will rely on the continued cooperation and collaboration among private and public health care entities, according to Rigler.

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Arizona health officials continue to plan for dire scenario as virus spreads