Letter to ADHS: Arizona COVID-19 modeling team recommends 3-week shutdown

Coronavirus COVID-19
Posted at 11:32 PM, Nov 27, 2020

PHOENIX — Some members of Arizona’s COVID-19 Modeling Team are urging state leaders to impose a three-week shelter-in-place order to avoid a health "catastrophe," according to a letter sent to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The modeling team is composed of university researchers who have been monitoring the trends related to the novel coronavirus since the spring.

In that letter, obtained by ABC15, modelers at the University of Arizona warned, without additional measures being implemented, Arizona hospitals could be at in-patient and ICU capacities in early December.

By late December, according to the letter, those modelers predict that hospitals would reach total capacity, meaning hospitals would not have any more beds available for patients, no matter if they were sick with COVID-19 or another illness.

“Any delay to reverse the current trajectory of COVID-19 viral transmission will cause more needless illness and deaths,” the letter, dated Nov. 27, stated.

To combat those predictions, the modelers made the following recommendations to the state:

  • Immediate implementation of a statewide mask mandate
  • A state-wide shelter-in-place ordinance beginning Tuesday, December 1st extending through Tuesday, December 22 that would include the closures of indoor dining and bars.
  • To alleviate economic hardship imposed by the shelter-in-place order, the state should pass emergency COVID-19 relief measures for small businesses and families affected by closures.
  • If a state-wide mandate is not enacted, county and municipal leaders should be granted greater authority to enact their own shelter-in-place orders, business closures, and restrictions on public gatherings.

The modelers said if a shelter-in-place order began immediately, the state might be able to hold the daily increase in COVID-19 cases below 6,200, which is reported to be twice the current rate.

ABC15 has reached out to the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Governor's Office for comment.

"Everyone is here to celebrate the holiday, you want to be able to celebrate even if it’s from afar, but you want to make sure you’re going to be with them in the future years," said Former Arizona Emergency Director Wendy Smith-Reeve. "This is what the science is telling us that an action actually needs to occur in order to ensure that we do not lose more people and so that we don’t collapse the health care system."

Earlier Friday, Dr. Cara Christ, director of ADHS, released a preproduced video update on the state's COVID-19 effort.

"Arizona and the rest of the country are seeing significant community spread of COVID-19, and the holidays have the potential to further increase the spread,” she said in the video. “Even with the first doses of a vaccine on the horizon, we cannot let down our guard.”

She did not mention any new actions to reduce the spread of the virus.

In the video, Dr. Christ said the state's numbers were continuing to trend in the wrong direction and reminded Arizonans of the importance of wearing a mask, washing their hands, and limiting indoor gatherings. She also encouraged people to shop online ahead of the holidays.

She also said that ADHS has received more than 2,600 complaints regarding businesses not following the state's COVID-19 protocols. She said staff had followed-up on more than 2,500 of those cases and that some 600 on-site inspections have been conducted.

On Friday, ADHS announced that a Scottsdale gym had been ordered to close for violating the state's health and safety guidelines. ABC15 visited the gym on Friday evening and found it to be open with staff working and people actively working out.