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Arizona Hospitals Projected To Be Overwhelmed By Mid-December

Arizona has reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 infections in just the past three days alone.

An Arizona State University model projects the state hospital system will be overwhelmed by mid-December.

Previously, the state last topped 4,000 new cases in July during a summer surge that made the state a national hot spot after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed business closings and stay-home restrictions.

Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute projects a surge in deaths — hitting a peak of 112 a day by mid-January. With a statewide mask mandate, researchers say the peak could be cut to less than 70. 

Arizona’s outbreak lessened in August and September after local governments implemented masking mandates and Ducey instituted restrictions on some businesses.

The virus surged again last month and into this month.

Will Humble, former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, says there’s nothing left to do but take drastic measures. However, he doubts the governor will be proactive.

“The main policy option that’s available is to just shut the bars again, like, now, and the nightclubs and make the restaurants go back to takeout only,” Humble said.

Gov. Ducey has not proposed any new restrictions, instead opting to focus on a $25 million infusion of federal money to help with hospital surges, as well as a vaccine that he thinks will be available starting in mid-December. 

Humble also says hospitals are already restricting visitation. What he expects to follow is a scaled back, postponed or cancelled elective procedures. And then the worst case is a rationing of care based on life expectancy.

Humble says only aggressive policy could stave off the final step.

→  Gov. Ducey Announces No New Changes In Arizona Policy Despite Rise In COVID-19 Cases

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Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.