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When should Arizona shelter in place? One model has an answer.

By: - March 26, 2020 4:51 pm
covid-19 coronavirus chart

Graph via COVID Act Now

On Thursday, COVID-19 was confirmed to be in 13 of Arizona’s 15 counties officially deeming it to be “widespread” in the state, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Some states have issued shelter in place or “hunker down” orders where residents are limited on where they are able to go in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. 

Gov. Doug Ducey has said this week that a shelter in place order is not something that he is currently considering. But he has set the stage for issuing one, having issued an executive order dictating that a shelter in place order must be “consistent with advice from the Arizona Department of Health Services” and any such restrictions should be coordinated with the state, a move that was met with opposition from some city leaders

But when would a shelter in place order be the most optimal for slowing the spread of COVID-19? 

A group of programmers, policymakers and health care workers wanted to find out just that, and created the COVID Act Now tool.

The tool has been endorsed by a number of physicians who work in the fields of biology, immunology and epidemiology. 

It uses specific models to determine how COVID-19 could affect each state, depending on what actions – if any – are taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

So what does the model say about Arizona? 

If no actions were to be taken at all, 70% of Arizonans would contract COVID-19, the state’s hospitals would be overloaded by April 24 and 146,000 people would die. 

If Arizona implements three months of social distancing, then the model projects 65% of the people would be infected with the coronavirus, hospitals will be overloaded by May 18 and 98,000 will die. 

If the state enforces a strict three-month shelter in place, the decrease in COVID-19 spread is drastic: Less than 1% of the population would get the illness, hospitals likely wouldn’t face overloading and fewer than 1,000 people will die. 

The projection predicts that if Arizona continues a path of using social distancing as its primary means of containment – as has been the case thus far – there will be 63,392 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 by June 7. 

But when is it too late to issue a shelter in place order? 

The model predicts that in order to prevent hospital overload a shelter in place must be implemented before May 4. 

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said infections are expected to peak in mid-April, with hospitalizations peaking in mid-May.

Christ has also said that the state will need to double its ICU beds from the current 1,500 to 3,000; increase its non-ICU hospital beds from 16,000 to 29,000; and more than triple the number of ventilators from roughly 1,400 to at least 4,500.

As of March 26, there are 508 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona with 8 deaths. 

How you can tell if you might have been impacted

Symptoms of coronavirus resemble that of the flu. So, if you’re experiencing coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, you should consider getting checked out. Call your primary care physician or visit an urgent care center or emergency room — but call the health care provider before you go so they can be prepared for your arrival. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is taking COVID-19 calls: 1-844-542-8201

How COVID-19 spreads

  • Through the air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it

How to prevent spreading COVID-19

  • Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Don’t use your hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean surfaces frequently, including counter tops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
  • Contain: If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better. Once symptoms are gone experts recommend staying home an additional 72 hours.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.