Arizona researchers: COVID-19 could become 'humanitarian crisis' in the state

A graph showing COVID-19 cases in Arizona from March 1 to Dec. 6. (University of Arizona)

The University of Arizona's COVID-19 modeling team is sounding the alarm on what they believe may be a "humanitarian crisis" by Christmas.

Researchers say virus cases in Arizona are doubling about every 14 days now, and things will likely get worse in the coming weeks.

Dr. Joe Gerald says the state could hit 80,000 cases and 500 deaths per week by January. The surge may be worse than the one experienced over the summer because no new policy changes are being made to slow the spread this time around.

"If we do nothing, the epidemiology is pretty straightforward," Gerald said. "This curve will continue to rise and it will get much, much higher than it is now - because more than 80% of Arizonans remain susceptible to this virus."

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

Since there's a large population of people who have not been infected, Gerald says the virus could spread like wildfire if unchecked.

According to the UArizona modeling team's outbreak forecast, the outlook is grim without any policy changes in place.

"Arizona is experiencing a public health crisis where access to critical care services is limited due to shortages of space, personnel, and critical supplies," read the forecast. "If not addressed within the next 1 - 2 weeks, this crisis will evolve into a humanitarian crisis leading to hundreds of preventable deaths. At this point, only shelter-in-place restrictions are certain to quickly and sufficiently curtail viral transmission."

Gov. Doug Ducey has resisted pressure to impose additional shutdowns, restrictions and statewide mask mandates, but has asked that Arizonans take the proper steps to slow the spread of the virus and to get the vaccine when available.

Read the forecast model here: https://publichealth.arizona.edu/news/2020/covid-19-forecast-model

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