Arizona state health department announces 'ongoing partnership' with modeling team

Posted at 1:29 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 13:44:04-04

PHOENIX — Just days after an email went out disbanding its team of modelers, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced "an ongoing partnership to continue providing models."

According to ADHS spokesperson Chris Minnick, the department was "very pleased" with an April 20 model the team of researchers provided, and subsequently put the modeling project "on pause" until the team would be called on again to assist with COVID-19 modeling during the flu season.

MAP: Coronavirus cases in Arizona by zip code

"Since then, the universities and team members have expressed a willingness to continue doing this work," Minnick went on to say in a Thursday statement. "We are grateful for their dedication and we look forward to an ongoing partnership."

The department came under fire earlier this week, after an email from ADHS bureau chief Steven "Rob" Bailey went out to the team Monday night "pausing" all current work on virus modeling.

The modeling team, which consists of at least 23 researchers from Arizona State University and University of Arizona, has been predicting the spread of coronavirus in Arizona and advising state leaders on the impacts of reopening the state. They produced at least two reports for ADHS, which were publicly released after repeated requests from ABC15 and other news agencies.

In the Monday email, Bailey also said that he wanted the team to know as soon as possible so they wouldn't "expend further time or effort needlessly." He mentioned the possibility that the team may be called upon again in late summer or early fall.

Tuesday afternoon, an ADHS spokesman sent ABC15 an email explaining the decision, saying, "The reason that ADHS is pausing the internal modeling is, as we have said before, we are looking at several national models and have determined that FEMA is the most accurate to help us develop and implement public health interventions to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak."

ABC15 contacted eight members of the modeling team earlier this week seeking comment about the move to disband, but they either did not return ABC15's messages or refused to comment. The team members are volunteering their time to work with ADHS.

On Monday, Ducey had indicated a "downward trajectory" on key metrics tracking the spread of the virus as the reason for allowing businesses to reopen.