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COVID-19 modeler says Arizona can’t ‘vaccinate’ way out of pandemic

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PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey in his State of the State address Monday urged everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the more Arizonans who do so, the faster the state “can get on with life as it should be.”

But a researcher at the University of Arizona warned it will require more than that.

“I don’t think we will be able to vaccinate our way out of this problem given how bad we’re doing right now,” Dr. Joe Gerald, a member of the university’s COVID Modeling Team, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“It could help lead us out of this pandemic, but only if we were doing a better job of controlling the natural spread of COVID-19.”

Gerald also believes the state is not vaccinating fast enough and that the state is not expected to get enough vaccine doses until June to get a substantial portion of Arizonans vaccinated.

He also estimates 25%-30% of Arizonans have gotten coronavirus. Without any additional mitigation strategies, he believes “it won’t take us much longer to double that.”

Since March, Gerald has been releasing weekly COVID-19 forecast reports meant to help guide the state’s response to the outbreak. He has argued since late November that “only shelter-in-place restrictions are certain to quickly and sufficiently curtail viral transmission.”

Ducey has ruled out the possibility of another stay-at-home order like the one he implemented in March, which ordered Arizona residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In his address Wednesday, the governor defended the “measured, steady, responsible approach” he has taken to fight off COVID-19.

He also did not commit to enacting more mitigation measures even as the number of new cases and hospitalizations in Arizona continue to reach record levels.

“The critics can say what they want, but the path I’ve outlined is the right path for Arizona,” Ducey said.

Gerald disagreed, saying Arizona’s approach to slow the spread of the virus is not working.

“We don’t actually really have a very effective plan in place,” he said. “The fact that it’s not working is clear.”

Gerald pointed to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ranks Arizona second highest in the nation for its rate of new COVID-19 cases, after ranking first last week.

The state also ranks first nationally for COVID-19 deaths for a second week in a row.

“There’s nothing about Arizona’s approach to the COVID-19 crisis that is commendable,” Gerald said.

“We’re doing a terrible job, and I am disappointed to hear that the governor again is making a commitment to do nothing in the face of a clear and present danger.”

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