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Doctor: COVID-19 Spread Will Only Worsen Without Restrictions, Economic Support

The state Department of Health Services reported 5,442 new cases of COVID-19 Dec. 3 — one of the highest daily reports since the pandemic began.

The current spike in cases already rivals the sharp increase we saw in our state earlier this year. Upward trends in new cases and positivity rates were clearly reversed when officials took action then.

ASU Biodesign Institute Executive Director Joshua LaBaer said two weeks after aggressive action like nonessential business closures, Arizona was back on track. That is no longer the case.

“Unfortunately, you know, we don’t have those measures in place now," LaBaer said. "And that worries me, because right now, we’re seeing just rapid growth, and I think that is going to put a serious stress on the hospitals.”

Dr. Marjorie Bessel is the chief clinical officer for Banner Health. During a press conference Dec. 2, she said the state’s situation today is grim and getting worse. She predicted hospitals will reach 125% bed capacity or more by January.

The problem is other states are experiencing a surge, too, making additional supplies and staff harder to come by. That means the fight must happen on our home-turf.

Bessel said she supports all mitigation efforts, including the city of Tucson’s decision to implement a curfew this week.

“Looking at facts, science and evidence that’s out there of what has worked, curfew is one of those items that can work. We would be in favor of a curfew as well as other mitigation efforts to help us flatten the curve," Bessel said.

But Gov. Doug Ducey disagreed. He said a curfew was not the right approach — not with business interests in mind.

“We want to do things that will allow businesses to continue to operate safely," Ducey said. "We believe that if we will continue the mitigation steps that we’ve laid out — and there will be enforcement around those mitigation steps — those would be the best things that we could do to continue to slow the spread.”

The governor also chided Tucson Mayor Regina Romero.

“I don’t know how the mayor intends to enforce the curfew when she won’t enforce the steps that are already in place," Ducey said.

Nonetheless, on Dec. 2 Ducey announced several more executive orders regarding large gatherings and restaurants' ability to use outdoor space.

While some officials have called on Ducey to do more, lawmakers at the state Capitol held a hearing to explore limitations on the governor’s executive authority. There was disagreement — as there often is. And just as the governor has been criticized for not using all of the tools available to him to fight the virus, Democratic Rep. Randy Friese said lawmakers were acting too quickly to restrict Ducey’s power to respond to an emergency.

"We aren’t using what’s already in statute appropriately," Friese said. "Let’s address that and get that done before we start talking about new layers of restrictions and regulations."

In all, 6,821 people have now died from COVID-19 in our state.

Health officials are clear: The caseload and death rate will only get worse before the end of the year.

For more about what Ducey had to say yesterday, The Show spoke with Dr. Farshad Fani Marvasti — or Dr. Shad — the director of public health, prevention and health promotion at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine Phoenix.

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Katie Campbell was a senior producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2019 to 2020.