Chandler COVID-19 cases continue upward spiral - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler COVID-19 cases continue upward spiral

November 22nd, 2020 SanTan Sun News
Chandler COVID-19 cases continue upward spiral

By Haillie Parker
Cronkite News

Health officials fear a “staggering” death toll in Arizona as COVID-19 cases continue to rise unabated, citing fatigue over the virus and crowded holiday gatherings as potential dangers.

Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, said its team attributes a resurgence of cases in Arizona and nationwide to a potential new era in the pandemic.

That era is one in which Americans weary of eight months of isolation return to pre-COVID-19 routines of work, school and play. That could lead to a rise that surpasses even the state’s spike last summer, when nearly one out of four tests were positive, he said.

LaBaer’s alarm comes as the latest COVID-19 data, released by the county health department, showed that cases per 100,000 people – one of the three benchmarks for measuring virus spread was at the “substantial” level are rising for the county as a whole as well as for all three school districts serving northern Chandler.

Chandler’s southern ZIP codes, including Sun Lakes, showed soaring virus numbers, according to data released by Maricopa County on Nov. 19. For the week of Nov. 8, all three – 85248, 85249 and 85286, were in the moderate  spread category for both hospital visits with COVID-like symptoms and positive new test results.

For percent of new tests with positive results, those three ZIP codes showed subsntial virus spread for cases per 100,000 people that included 168 in 85249, 150 for 85286 and 139 for 85248.

Citywide, Chandler saw cases per 100,000 double from 102 the first week of November to 208 the week of Nov. 8 and positive new test results up from 5.2 percent to 7.7 percent.

The data are 12 days old when they are posted by the county health department.

Hospital ER visits with COVID-like symptoms for more than two months had been the only one of three benchmarks in the minimum spread category but they are now in the category signifying morderate spread.

Chandler Unified’s numbers also are up from 147 cases per 100,000 the first week of November to 245 for the second week. Positive test results were up from 7.5 percent to 8.9 and hospital visits for the first time in weeks entered the moderate spread category, rising from the low-level 4 percent to 5 percent.

Earlier this month, LaBaer cautioned that cases were about to reach 1,000 a day. That estimate turned out to be conservative. Maricopa County hit nearly 1,195 cases on Nov. 17, the latest available data show.

LeBaer recommended minimal mingling during the holidays and adherence to precautions such as wearing masks, social distancing and frequent testing for the disease, which since January has killed more than 6,365 people in Arizona and 250,000 across the nation.

“I would suggest, for the upcoming holidays, that people really limit it to their immediate family this year. I don’t think it’s a great year for big family get-togethers,” LaBaer said.

LaBaer said Arizona has some confusing markers. A number of people have recovered from COVID-19 and appear to be immune for up to six months, which should mean a slowdown in the transmission of the disease. But that hasn’t happened.

“The fact that the transmission rate is as high as it was back then means that people are doing a better job of transmitting it, which is not good,” he said. “People are interacting more, and some of that may be COVID fatigue, some may be that people are back at work more often, but we really need to be attentive to reducing that sort of thing.”

“We’re hitting a milestone here where the seven-day average for new cases is approaching 100,000 new cases a day. To put that in some perspective, the number of new cases we saw yesterday was around 90,000. That is more than the total number of cases in the original Wuhan outbreak,” LaBaer said, referring to the industrial city in central China where COVID-19 emerged late last year.

Herd immunity has never been achieved without a vaccine, he said. Despite the widespread devastation and death toll caused by the virus, Arizona and the rest of the world are nowhere near the necessary 60 percent level to achieve herd immunity.

Marcy Flanagan, executive director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said the percentage of the county’s population with antibodies is 11 percent – far less than is needed to reach herd immunity.

“We estimate that somewhere between 40-80 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine to reach herd immunity,” said Flanagan. “It’s critical that we all wear face masks correctly and consistently, physically distance from others, wash our hands and avoid large groups of people to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”