COVID cases shoot up in Arizona as BA-5 variant becomes dominant strain

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 8:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The new BA-5 variant of the coronavirus is now the predominate strain in Arizona with just under 60% of the new cases. But how many, is still uncertain.

Even though the state’s date dashboard shows 15,280 new cases last week statewide an 1,880 in Pima County, health experts feel that is low.

“There’s expected to be somewhere between three and five times as many cases, of active COVID cases, as what the data on the dashboards are showing us,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, the Director of Health at the University of Arizona.

And that’s because so many people are home testing and it’s believed, many, if not most, are not reporting their results. And it’s also thought many are not testing at all.

“Many people, even though they test positive, need to go to work, need to take care of their children,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General. “So we don’t have a good handle on the actual numbers, but the numbers we’re seeing are clearly increasing with BA-5.”

The positivity rate in Arizona is 29%, which means nearly a third of the people being tested come up positive. One reason may be, that people only get tested when they know they’re sick and need medical attention. Those who have mild cases may not test.

Even with a significant rise in cases, there has been no spike in hospitalizations or deaths.

“People that are sick it’s more like a cold than a very bad disease,” said Dr. Carmona. “However, if you are old, have a chronic disease, cancer, HIV, those things make you more susceptible and the virus can still kill you.”

Which is probably pretty good news for the upcoming school year which gets underway in a few weeks.

“I think this falls semester is to look the normal-est that it’s looked since 2019,” Dr. Gerald said. “And i think rightfully so, many of our students have already been vaccinated.”

Vaccines are available for nearly all students in all age groups now.

“What’s going to be really different this year about the resumption of schools is that vaccines are now approved for all ages of schoolchildren down to Pre-K,” Dr. Gerald said.

Just how many parents vaccinate their children is still unknown but Dr. Gerald anticipates about half will.

The University of Arizona will be welcoming students back in a month and is preparing for their arrival. Printed messaging will go out next week and the school will begin it’s first in a series of press conferences Aug. 15.

Besides washing hands and social distancing, the UofA has another recommendation.

“When you’re enclosed in a classroom with lots of students, it is best to consider masking,” Dr. Carmona said. “We’re not mandating but we’re suggesting you use your good judgement.”

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