US got its first reported case of COVID-19 a year ago, expert talks where we are now

One year ago on Jan. 20, 2020, the first COVID-19 case was reported in the US. Since then, more than 24 million people have had the virus and more than 400,000 people have died from it nationally.

This latest surge from the holidays has been particularly rough, but now, there are signs things may be leveling off once again.

Will Humble, the director of the Arizona Public Health Association, says it is possible that we have reached the peak of this latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

He says that while the number of cases have leveled off, hospitalizations are still strong and the state will continue to see deaths because of past infections.

Humble says there was a lot of socializing during the holidays. Christmas and New Year's which is what projections from universities indicated back in November. 

"If you remember, that is exactly what the models were saying in November. If you go back and look at the academic models from UofA and ASU models, without interventions, what did they say? They said it would be exponential growth in December and remain in January and the bulk of the hospital burden would be in mid-January with the decline starting in late January. It's further validation of all the models that have been produced," Humble explained.

Thinking back to a year ago from today, Humble says that he had no idea that the virus would have turned out like this, realizing its potential in late March of 2020.

Dr. Joshua LaBaer with the Arizona State University Biodesign institute says the transmission rate remains extraordinarily high along with an increased death rate in the state.

"The numbers suggest that we have backed off on the peak 10,000 cases a day. I'm concerned that this is not real. Biggest concern is that we are seeing reduced numbers of people getting tested in the state," LaBaer said.

The biggest concern for ASU researchers is the number of deaths in the state from COVID-19. We are sitting at more than 11,500 lives lost.

"In a 12-month window, a typical year there are roughly 12,000 deaths due to heart disease and cancer. Those are the two leading causes of death and COVID-19 is angling up to being the leading cause of death," LaBaer said.