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Renewed calls for vaccinations, boosters as Arizona enters winter COVID-19 surge

Joshua LaBaer
Arizona State University
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handout | agency
Joshua LaBaer

More than 22,000 people in Arizona have died from COVID-19. Now, following an autumn marked by steady-but-high rates, cases in the state are surging — just in time for the holidays.

Arizona hospital and ICU usages have reached annual highs, even beating out the summer surge.

Breakthrough infections make up about one-third of new cases, but unvaccinated Arizonans account for most hospitalizations.

They’re also five to six times more likely to transmit the virus, according to Dr. Joshua LaBaer, who leads ASU’s Biodesign Institute.  

“There’s a lot of people in the state who are still yet to be vaccinated. That means that there's a lot of, if you will, dry kindling wood,” he said. 

LaBaer recommends everyone get vaccinated or obtain a booster to blunt the winter surge.

He adds people should get tested before attending large holiday gatherings. 

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.