TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The health officials in charge of making models, or predictions, as to where the virus is spreading are painting a dire warning about the holidays.
“If something is not done quickly, we worry that this outbreak will overwhelm our hospital system by the end of December,” said Joe Gerald, PhD, an Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona. “We’re very worried that his is a very vulnerable period.”
That’s because the holidays are a time of family gatherings, travel and commerce, all of which are high end spreaders of the virus.
The present spike in cases rivals the spike in June and July which forced the state to take action to mitigate the spread, which included closing certain businesses but did not include a statewide mask mandate.
Cities and Counties were allowed to impose a mandatory mask mandate if they chose to do so and most did.
Governor Doug Ducey, while under pressure from local governments and health officials to do so, has so far resisted.
But in a letter to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the modelers are once again asking for a statewide mandate and also for a three week shelter in place order, which is a tall order.
But a shelter in place order is not likely because of organized opposition especially from the business community.
“We recognize that lesser interventions are more likely, Gerald said. “The only thing we would say is doing nothing is not a solution, it’s not realistic.”
The modelers are trying to change the current trajectory of the virus which they say is spreading exponentially, meaning it’s widespread and out of control.
Without some measures immediately to slow it down, the letter says, “it risks a catastrophe on a scale of the worst natural disaster the state has ever experienced.”
Closing the state through a shelter in place order will likely cause serious economic damage much the same as the damage done during the first shutdown during March and April.
That’s why they’re also calling for another round of stimulus to mitigate the economic impact.
“As health officials we are not naive about the economic and political realities, Gerald said.
He says there should be no evictions during a shelter in place and “no one should go hungry.”
They are also calling on the Governor to allow local jurisdictions to pass their own mitigation strategies separate from the state.
“We are basically firing the first shot in the renewed conversation,” he said. “And saying we believe this is a crisis and we must act now.”