TUCSON, AZ — A University of Arizona researcher says COVID-19 conditions around the state could be more devastating by the end of the month.
“No matter how I squeeze the lemon, this week's coronavirus update is sour,” Joe Gerald, MD, PhD, a researcher at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, said in a message.
According to the report dated Friday, Aug. 13, transmission of coronavirus is increasing among all age groups, but rates are three times higher among the 15-24 group than in the 65+ age group.
Case numbers could exceed those seen in summer 2020 and could approach numbers seen in winter 2021, according to the report.
“Unless we immediately change course, the state is going to experience another overwhelming surge in the coming weeks,” Gerald said, noting that the state could see 300 or more deaths a week in as soon as a few weeks from now.
Gerald also supports mask mandates in schools and throughout the community but says masking alone is not enough.
“While mask mandates are necessary, they will not be sufficient to slow transmission without other layered protections throughout the community.”
Data from the CDC shows 47% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated and an additional 10% have received a single dose.
Phoenix Children's tells ABC15 that they have seen a steady increase in the number of young patients coming into the Emergency Room.
The spike, of course, coincides with the return to school.
Rachel Grainger says her daughter, Elizabeth, was in her Chandler kindergarten class for roughly two weeks before coming home with a fever. A test revealed the 5-year-old was positive for COVID-19.
"I was very upset that it came back positive, because we've been trying for the last year and a half to make sure if she wasn't going to catch COVID," said Grainger, who is a veterinarian.
Grainger said her daughter was one of the few in her class to wear a mask.
"I was hoping that maybe that would give her some protection, but she's at least the third positive in her class," said the mother. "These kids are in elementary school, they can't be vaccinated. The only way to protect them is for everyone to wear a mask."
In his recent report on the state of the virus in Arizona, Dr. Joe Gerald wrote, "While mask mandates are necessary, they will not be sufficient to slow transmission without other layered protections throughout the community.”
While Elizabeth's experience with COVID has been fairly mild, Grainger said she still worries about her daughter and larger family.
"What worries me is we don't know what this virus does to kids later on," she said. "My son still hasn't gotten it. I still worry for him every day."
"Kids do present with long COVID," said Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a Pediatrician with Phoenix Children's. "They're having the same symptom, so shortness of breath, headaches, that mental fog confusion."
Doctors say if the variants are going to be stopped and successfully quelled then parents will need to get their kids, under 12, vaccinated once the FDA authorizes it, which is expected later this year.