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ASU Biodesign Institute: COVID-19 Spread Not Accelerating but Still Bad

This graph from the Biodesign Institute shows the number of new statewide cases each day (in black) starting to flatten.
This graph from the Biodesign Institute shows the number of new statewide cases each day (in black) starting to flatten.
ASU Biodesign Institute

Some of the measures implemented to address Arizona's COVID-19 outbreak are starting to pay off, but the spread is still not under control, Arizona State University Biodesign Institute Director Joshua LaBaer said today at a media briefing.

LaBaer and his team have been tracking the trends in cases both in Arizona and nationwide and he said that while the number of new daily cases is starting to flatten slightly, Arizona is still on course for more suffering — just not as quickly.

"We shouldn't be cheering," he said.

The state reported 3,257 new cases and 97 new deaths today, but those include cases from previous days that are only reported now. Of those new numbers, over two-thirds of cases were from Maricopa County, as were just less than two-thirds of deaths.

Around half the cases the county has race data for are Hispanic or Latino people, who only make up 31 percent of the population at-large. Seven percent are Indigenous people who make 2 percent of the population.

LaBaer often compares Arizona's COVID-19 rates to a car. We're easing off the accelerator, but still traveling forward at the same high speed and need to hit the brakes, he said.

"We don't want [to get to] 3,500 new cases a day," he said. "We want to get that much lower."

Death numbers aren't skyrocketing like they did earlier on, but the toll mounts each day.
Death numbers aren't skyrocketing like they did earlier on, but the toll mounts each day.
ASU Biodesign Institute

He attributed the slight flattening to the variety of new social-distancing measures the governor implemented before the Fourth of July weekend and since — shutting down bars and other large group settings, allowing local mask requirements — while saying it's not likely attributable to one measure alone.

In terms of per-capita cases, we're approaching hard-hit states like New York or New Jersey, he said. The virus is still widespread in the community.

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The proportion of people dying from their case of the disease has slowed somewhat from earlier days, but the body count continues to climb, he said. He said deaths are going to continue at the same rate until infection numbers start to actually go down.

"We can't let up. In fact I think we need to push even harder in keeping people home as much as possible," LaBaer said.

He said the best way to protect the economy is to protect workers, pointing to the example of Sweden which chose not to follow social distancing measures and saw both higher death rates and poor economic outcomes.

"Taking care of [worker's] health is probably the most important thing to do here," he said.

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