Arizona COVID modeler says ‘storm coming’ in 2-4 weeks without action

Nov 30, 2020, 4:01 PM | Updated: Dec 1, 2020, 7:45 am
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)...
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

PHOENIX — A researcher at the University of Arizona cautioned Monday that the state will be faced with a dire coronavirus situation within four weeks if no further action is taken to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Joe Gerald, a member of the university’s COVID Modeling Team, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad a “storm is coming” without additional guidance and mitigation strategies.

“Something has to be done,” Gerald said. “The only wrong thing to do is nothing and right now we’re not doing very much.”

The University of Arizona’s COVID Modeling Team said in a letter Friday to the state’s Department of Health Services that no extra steps “would be akin to facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders.”

The modelers say a three-week stay-home shutdown and the implementation of a statewide mask mandate would be good steps to take to avoid worsening the situation in the state.

No extra steps taken could result in Arizona facing a hospital crisis.

“An important reason why we’re sounding this alarm right now is to avoid that,” Gerald said. “This isn’t something that is predestined to happen. It’ll only happen if we allow it to happen.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has been steadfast in not implementing a statewide mask mandate, instead encouraging that all residents wear one whenever possible.

The state has also been at least partially open since mid-May, although COVID-19 metrics are reaching levels not seen in months.

Cases have been surging since the beginning of October and reached record levels last week.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospital inpatients was 2,513 on Sunday, a 25% increase in the last week and the most since July 27.

Additionally, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds was 579 on Sunday, a 23% increase in the last week and the most since Aug. 5.

Statewide, 29% of all inpatient beds and 33% of all ICU beds were filled with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients on Sunday, levels last seen in late July and early August.

Overall, inpatient beds were 86% filled and ICU beds were 89% filled on Sunday.

Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said last week it is anticipating reaching surge capacity by early December.

“It’s important to recognize that it’s not just COVID care that will be threatened,” Gerald said.

“There are many Arizonans out there with heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and other conditions which require the specialized skills and care that hospitals provide.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona COVID modeler says ‘storm coming’ in 2-4 weeks without action