TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Researchers expect COVID-19 to become the number one killer in Arizona. The grim projection was shared Wednesday by the ASU COVID-19 modeling team as part of an update on trends seen across the state.

Dr. Josh LaBaer, Executive Director of ASU’S Biodesign Institute, says in a typical year, about 12,000 Arizonans die from heart disease and another 12,000 die from cancer. With Arizona COVID-19 deaths exceeding 10,000, LaBaer says the virus may soon become the leading cause of death. “We are seeing an extraordinary number of new cases a day and that’s a pretty frightening position to be in,” said LaBaer.

LaBaer also talked about the vaccine rollout. “I’m a little worried that everybody is seduced by the fact that there are vaccines starting to roll out,” said LaBaer. “But keep in mind, the number of people getting vaccinated right now is tiny. We are vaccinating nowhere near the number of people that it would take to have an impact on the spread of the virus in our community right now.”

750,000 Arizonans 65 and older can get COVID vaccine starting next week

LaBaer said at least half of Arizonans would have to be vaccinated in order to see improvement in the COVID-19 numbers. “For us to see a real impact on the spread of the virus among the community, we need to get at least 50% of the people vaccinated,” said LaBaer. “That's several million doses of vaccine that need to be delivered to the state for it to have an impact on spread.”

To prevent a future outbreak, LaBaer said up to 80% of Arizonans would need to be vaccinated.

According to the Arizona Department of Health services, 188,740 Arizona’s had received the vaccine as of Tuesday. More than 17,000 of them have received their second dose.


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