Experts: ‘Better data’ will be needed to help in future pandemics

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Posted at 4:55 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 21:26:02-04

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, although we are seeing signs of improvements every day with cases dropping, and more Arizonans being vaccinated. However, top experts who have followed the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona say better data will be needed in the future to help predict what’s next.

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The University of Arizona hosted a virtual forum on predicting and responding to emerging viruses and pandemics.

“We must prepare for the coming pandemics for rapid and effective responses to save both life and economy,” the University wrote about the symposium.

The panel made up of national and international experts spoke about future pandemic threats, and what we can learn.

One concern is the need for good data to help predict what could happen.

“If we’re going to have a robust scientific response to any infectious disease or any pandemic going forward, we need better data in order for the models to improve,” said Dr. Tim Lant, a researcher with Arizona State University.

Lant, has helped lead ASU’s modeling team throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been a part of the state’s modeling response team that has worked with state leaders to try and help inform policy makers.

On Wednesday, the executive director for ASU’s Biodesign Institute said they’re seeing two major variants on the rise in Arizona, but it's unclear which will be more dominant.

Dr. Joshua Labaer said researchers are seeing the UK variant rising exponentially in Arizona, and he suspects it will become the dominant strain.

As for other lessons in a pandemic: finding how to identify and protect the most vulnerable, having better communication to stop the spread of misinformation, and finding ways to have equal access across demographics for things like testing, healthcare, and distribution for vaccines.