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COVID-19 remains a threat even as metrics improve, expert says

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Despite key COVID-19 metrics showing improvement in Arizona, a Valley health expert says it’s not time to let one’s guard down.

Executive Director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute Dr. Joshua LaBaer said new, more transmissible variants could soon become dominant in the state and cause another rise in cases.

“It is certainly possible that another surge could happen, this is a very transmissible variant,” LaBaer said, referring to the variant B.1.1.7 first discovered in the United Kingdom. “It gets around very quickly.”

The variant was found in Arizona in late January.

LaBaer emphasized the importance of continuing to follow safety protocols and increasing vaccinations across the state.

“The amount of vaccination that we’ve done in this state is tiny compared to the number of people in the state, even though we’re making great headway,” he said.

While a vaccine may not prevent someone from contracting COVID-19, LaBaer said it could prevent death.

“The goal of this vaccine, of course, is to prevent serious illness. If we can reduce this virus to a bad cold and we’re not seeing deaths like we do, I think we could all live with that lifestyle,” he said.

Arizona’s deaths as a result of COVID-19 is the one metric still higher than last summer’s spike. LaBaer explained deaths would take a while to decline, especially due to a lag in reporting.

“What looked like a mountain back then, is really only a hill compared to the number of deaths we’re seeing right now,” LaBaer said.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit

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