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Democrats and researcher call for more AZ coronavirus transparency

Posted at 6:48 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 22:11:02-04

PHOENIX — Arizona Democrats and at least one national researcher call on Arizona state leaders to increase transparency about the spread of coronavirus in our state.

State Sen. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, sits on the Health and Human Services Committee. While he is being briefed on the state's response to coronavirus, he claims Governor Doug Ducey and the State Health Director Cara Christ are not transparent about the data driving their decision-making process.

"We still don't know what model that they're using to figure out what the total expected number of cases are going to be in a State of Arizona, so I think that's something that our caucus has been adamantly pushing the governor, pushing DHS," Navarrete said.

A Governor's executive order requires Arizona hospitals to increase bed capacity by 50% by April 24.

"We use many different sources, so there's not just one source that we're looking at," Dr. Christ said. "The 13,000 additional hospital beds and the ,500 [ICU beds] that - we're trying to put together in a document that we can release."

ADHS has a a modeling team to track the spread of coronavirus. ABC15 has repeatedly asked to see the data, charts, and analysis used by the team.

ADHS spokesman Chris Minnick told ABC15 Thursday the agency "has not received all the data and completed an analysis. We will post this information on our website when it is completed."

It's unclear what they are waiting for. One of the researchers who is contributing to the ADHS model is making his weekly projections public.

University of Arizona Professor Joe Gerald said COVID-19 hospital admissions on the April 24 peak are predicted to be "twice that of today," and may be even higher. His most recent report said given the limited ICU capacity, the strain will be greatest in those critical care units.

Gerald pulled from the COVID Act Now model in some of his observations.

COVID Act Now predicts hospitals in three Arizona counties, Navajo, Coconino, and Pinal, will be overrun with patients in the next month. ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius spoke to Dr. Nirav Shah, an epidemiologist working on the model.

Shah said Arizona hasn't not publicly released hospital admissions, the best data they need for their projections, although Arizona state leaders pledge they will publicly report that information soon.

"It is extremely important to be radically transparent, especially in the throes of an epidemic like this," said Shah, a former New York Health Commissioner. "We don't know where to send a response unless we know how hot the temperature is in a given county."

COVID Act Now is using Arizona's reported cases and death data in current predictions, but it is not ideal because the population is being under tested and death data is of limited use.

"It's also a very late indicator," Shah said. "By the time someone dies of COVID, they probably had it for at least 20 days."