PHOENIX - As Arizona, with its record spike in COVID-19 cases, becomes a coronavirus epicenter, an epidemiologist who has been keeping a close eye on coronavirus cases says the state's rate of climb is way too high and moving too fast.
On July 8, figures released by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed 3,421 people being treated for COVID-19, filling up nearly half the available beds statewide. Intensive care units were caring for 879 patients, with 570 of them on ventilators to help them breathe. The numbers reflect hospital tallies on July 7.
All but 145 of the state's more than 1,500 ICU beds are full, meaning hospitals have little room to treat more extremely sick patients without adding beds. State health officials say they’re prepared to do that, with all hospitals required to have the ability to boost beds by up to 50%.
Epidemiologist reacts to COVID-19 surge in Arizona
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, described the state Arizona is in right now.
"It’s like turning the Titanic. You’re not going to turn on a dime like a speed boat," said Dr. Feigl-Ding. "The epidemic is like a raging monster tide, and you’re trying to turn it against the wind, against tide, and a huge, huge ship of a state."
Dr. Feigl-Ding says reopening the state back in May was way too soon, and a spike in coronavirus cases was bound to happen.
"What we are seeing is the explosive growth after Memorial Day, when businesses opened too quickly, and we are going to see a lag in trying to clamp down the epidemic as well if we act now," said Dr. Feigl-Ding.
Dr. Feigl-Ding put out a graphic and tweet on July 8, saying Arizona has "now surpassed New York’s all-time highest epidemic peak in daily cases per capita."
"If you do not put in public implementation measure or massive changes of how often people mask, then it’s inevitable that the numbers will pass New York, and so, we passed that watershed moment," said Dr. Feigl-Ding.
A couple of weeks ago, Arizona also passed the per-capita for Italy and Spain. Dr. Feigl-Ding believes all levels of government aren’t doing enough.
"All officials should try to enforce and encourage this in every single level, and I personally think that we should have mandates that would require businesses to require people to wear masks, just like we have mandates that for our businesses not to sell alcohol or tobacco to underage minors," said Dr. Feigl-Ding.