PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – We’ve heard rumblings that the peak of the coronavirus crisis in Arizona might be behind us, but Dr. Cara Christ, the head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a blog Wednesday that our peak might still be ahead of us – a month or more away.
Early on the pandemic, health care experts estimated that biggest need for resources for COVID-19 patients would happen sometime in mid- to late April.
Christ noted that there are several models and estimates. One model from HealthData.org indicates that as of today – April 22 – “Arizona has already passed our peak resource utilization ….” Another model from COVIDActNow.org shows that Arizona should “be able to meet any COVID-19 healthcare requirements with our current available capacity and our current mitigation strategies in place.”
AZDHS teamed up with experts from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona to do a deep dive and develop a model that’s specific to Arizona. It tells a different story. “The most recent baseline estimates a peak need for 600 hospital beds and 300 ICU beds around May 22.”
The federal model for Arizona, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, puts Arizona’s COVID-19 peak around June 11. That’s “assuming our mitigation strategies are lifted at the end of the current Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected order on April 30th.” At this point, it’s not clear if the governor will be extending Arizona’s stay-at-home order, but hundreds of Arizonans would like to see the order lifted now.
“Given that our goal was to reduce transmission of COVID-19, if this model holds true, this later peak would reflect the success of those mitigation strategies,” Christ wrote in the AZDHS blog. “Its projections, even with the mitigation strategies lifted, predict that our current resources, including inpatient beds, ICU beds, and ventilators, will meet a healthcare surge due to COVID-19. This model appears the most realistic and the predictions are reassuring.”
Christ said Arizona needs to plan for the worst-case scenario “to make sure every Arizonan can access the level of care they need at the time they need it.” She said that’s why plans for alternate COVID-19 care sites like the one at the recently defunct St. Luke’s Hospital and the Arizona Surge Line, which is mean to prevent a virus surge at any single hospital, are still in the works.
She noted that models changes on daily basis and the predictions are just that – predictions. “Moving forward, the best course of action is to continue using all of our real-time, Arizona specific data to assess the health of our healthcare system and evaluate the trend of our cases to make decisions that are best for Arizona.”