Ducey faces decision this week on business shutdowns The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Ducey faces decision this week on business shutdowns

Ducey faces decision this week on business shutdowns
City News

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

So how close is Arizona to finally hitting a peak in COVID-19 cases?

It depends on whose numbers – and whose models – you believe.

The reports by several different organizations paint different pictures.

But the question now goes to whether Gov. Doug Ducey will conclude that the worst has passed and the risk sufficiently reduced so that he can begin slowly unwinding the restrictions he has imposed on everyday life in Arizona.

The governor has to make some decisions soon: His stay-at-home order dissolves automatically this Thursday, April 30, unless renewed in whole or in part.

Ducey said he takes comfort in one common thread in all the predictions: None currently show the state running out of hospital and ICU beds or ventilators. “Regardless of which one of these models happens to be right, we’re prepared,’’ he said.

The governor is not saying what he intends to do about the April 30 date.

“We don’t know if we’re past the peak or before the peak,’’ he said. “I’m not going to morph into a fortune teller and answer your question,’’ Ducey said in response to a query from Capitol Media Services. “We’re going to follow the facts and the data.’’

And the modeling?

“These are speculations that are educated speculations,’’ the governor said.

On what health director Cara Christ called the “rosiest’’ side is the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which predicted the peak in daily deaths could occur this weekend.

Longer term, it shows a declining death rate, probably hitting zero or close to that by June 13. But it still figures that 583 Arizonans eventually will die.

On a more practical level, the IHME model figures that Arizona’s use of hospital facilities won’t grow at all from this point forward.

By contrast, Christ said federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, shared with her models for Arizona based on projection formulas developed by John Hopkins University.

Christ did not share any death data from that model, saying that she has not received permission to provide how they got to the numbers. But she said that model predicts that hospital beds and medical equipment use will not peak until around June 11.

“This model appears to be the most realistic and the predictions are reassuring,’’ the director said.

What makes that particularly relevant is that Christ said that it is built on the presumption that the various gubernatorial orders will self-destruct as scheduled April 30.

That finding could prove particularly relevant to any decision Ducey makes in the next week, as it suggests that extending “mitigation strategies’’ beyond this month might result in an earlier peak – and potentially fewer virus cases and fewer deaths.

Others have their own proposals.

Christ said one was developed by her agency partnering with the University of Arizona and Arizona State University that has a mid-range prediction of about 88,466 case and predicts the peak will not occur until mid-May.

COVIDActNow.org has a model created by volunteers who partnered with epidemiologists and data scientists to look at not just the raw numbers but the effects of intervention.

Based on current trends, that model predicts that 4 percent of Arizonans eventually will contract the virus, with a total of 2,000 deaths.

The model also has a warning of sorts. It says if restrictions are lifted, up to 70 percent of Arizonans could be infected in the next three months, with 65,000 people eventually dying.

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