Was Arizona in a 'silent' COVID-19 surge from mid-April to late July?

Posted at 5:27 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 20:27:50-04

COVID-19 is still with us, but a recent, and silent surge may be coming to an end.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 8,661 weekly COVID-19 cases and 67 deaths. This is the second consecutive week of cases under 10,000. Many indicators had been showing COVID-19 was likely surging through communities throughout Arizona since mid-April. Today those same indicators are showing what was a silent surge is subsiding.

Looking at cases since March, weekly cases were under 5,000 in both March and April. Cases then saw a rise in May that by June and July meant case weekly case numbers were triple. Since mid-July however, case numbers have started to come down to under 10,000 a week. In context, this rise is still small. The COVID-19 omicron surge in January peaked at around 150,000 cases in one week.

This begs the question: Was Arizona in a silent COVID-19 surge that started in April? Evidence shows that the many Americans had a milder reaction to the Omicron variant than previous ones. Most individuals that tested did so at home if at all. COVID-19 genomes will still show up in wastewater data. The City of Tempe publishes a COVID-19 wastewater dashboard that updates weekly. COVID-19 case trends generally has similar movements to the wastewater trends from January 2022 to mid-April. After that wastewater trends begin an aggressive rise while COVID-19 weekly cases remain flat.

Hospitalizations are another way the CDC tracks COVID-19 surges throughout the country. In Arizona inpatient bed occupancy for COVID-19 was stable and under 400 daily occupants in April. The number of beds doubled by late July and are now beginning to come down. In context the rise in occupancy is still small compared to January.

If the most recent surge is considered, Arizona has had four COVID-19 surges that have seen increases in weekly death rates. When the first two surges subsided the weekly average of deaths were 69 and 61 respectively. Even accounting for this surge, the average weekly deaths from COVID-19 remains lower at 51.