TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The predicted Fall and Winter coronavirus surge appears to be materializing, according to state and local health officials.
“We are seeing an increase in cases, the case rates and percent positivity,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona State Health Director. “So we know transmission is increasing in our community.”
The daily number of cases according to the state COVID dashboard have nearly doubled in the past three weeks.
Also increasing the level of concern is that October is when winter visitors begin to flock into the state to escape the cold and snow in the Upper Midwest.
Right now, states like Wisconsin and the Dakotas are setting records for the number of cases and hospitalizations.
“What we don’t want people to do is just come and think Arizona doesn’t have requirements,” Dr Christ said. “We always want people coming here and enjoying our beautiful weather but we want them to do it safely.”
Pima County, which has seen its numbers stabilize in the past few weeks will get a better picture when new numbers are released this week but is preparing for the worst.
“It would be unconscionable, irresponsible for us not to prepare for another spike or another wave,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Pima County Health Director. “I think we are preparing for the worst.”
The county has eased standards to the point where organizers can apply to hold events larger than 50 people for the first time since the pandemic began but there is a caveat.
“But in two weeks, if life is different, kind of the like the university which we shut down in eight hours, we will shut them down,” Cullen said. “The organizers are aware of that.”
Michael Worobey, a University of Arizona biologist who has written and researched pandemics worldwide agrees Arizona is on the edge right now.
“We need to be preparing for a potentially very tough winter,” he said. “The toughest time for this virus may well be in the months just ahead of us, not in the rearview mirror.”
While he says we need to take the possibility of a wave seriously in the next weeks, it should be done within context.
“We don’t need to panic but we need to be realistic about the threat this presents,” he said.