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Doctors in the Valley anticipate another week of high COVID cases

Posted at 2:45 PM, Jan 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 11:21:46-05

PHOENIX — More than 15,000 new COVID cases were reported Sunday in Arizona for the second day in a row, following Saturday's report of the most daily infections seen in a year.

With cases in the tens of thousands, ABC15 Health Insiders are weighing in on what to expect in the upcoming week.

"Last week was pretty incredible in terms of the numbers that we've been seeing for positive cases,” said Dr. Janice Johnston, Chief Medical Officer with Redirect Health and ABC15 Health Insider. "We'll probably still continue to see a huge number of positive cases. I think it's going to go through the communities. In fact, quite a few. I do think that our system is overwhelmed in terms of testing right now."

Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, One Medical Center Family Physician and Regional Medical Director, agrees.

“I anticipate we're going to continue to see cases all throughout this week and they're going to continue to rise,” Dr. Bhuyan says. “I also anticipate that people are probably going to have a hard time finding testing because the existing testing sites that we have are already at capacity.”

On Monday, Embry Health reported "unplanned" testing site closures due to staff absences. ABC15 received calls from people in line at one of the sites, saying no one had shown up after they waited in line for over an hour.

"Our teams are working diligently and rapidly to reposition staffing. I'm so sorry that our text message servicing is not alerting fast enough," Raymond Embry, CEO and co-founder of TestNOW by Embry Health, said in a tweet.

The exact testing locations impacted by staffing shortages were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, doctors continue to see delays in PCR test reporting.

"What used to get turned around either same day or the next day for the PCR tests that we collect at Redirect Health, we're now seeing that those are being pushed out a few days,” says Dr. Johnston. “It's just due to the sheer volume of testing that's going on.”

And the medical community is getting sick from the omicron variant.

Multiple hospitals in Arizona have defined themselves in a "critical staff crisis." Dr. Johnston expects timely reporting and access to testing will resume as normal when testing isn’t backed up.

“I would expect over the next week, we'll probably see those high numbers again. And I don't expect that it's really going to significantly die down until probably the end of the month.”

And with so many cases, are we close to herd immunity?

“It will be interesting to see what happens when a good chunk of the population may get this particular variant,” says Dr. Johnston. “What we do know, however, is after getting the infection having natural immunity, that we do know that that natural immunity will wane over time or go down over time. And that's seems to really, really take a sharp dive about three months afterwards.”