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Arizona COVID-19 cases are still extremely high, but falling fast

COVID-19 caseloads in Arizona are falling precipitously after  reaching record highs last month, but experts say the state’s omicron surge is not yet over.

Arizona is currently averaging nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 cases per day. Two weeks ago, the state was reporting about three times that many daily infections.

Hear Katherine Davis-Young discuss the drop in cases with Host Steve Goldstein on The Show

covid-update-show-sg-kdy-20220210.mp3

“I think this is a really good sign. It’s welcomed,” said  Dr. Joe Gerald with the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health. “But at the same time, absolute levels of transmission remain exceedingly high.”

Gerald pointed out the state’s caseloads are still five times higher than the CDC’s threshold for high transmission.

“We still remain in mostly uncharted territory. There’s a lot of COVID out there,” Gerald said.

Gerald said precautions like wearing masks in indoor public settings are still important while cases are high. He pointed out the state’s hospitals are still dangerously crowded and are likely to remain overburdened throughout the month of February.

But Gerald is optimistic transmission will continue to slow down in the months ahead.

“We’re not out of the woods, but I hope we’ll have at least several months of respite this spring and early summer,” he said.

Beyond that, though, Gerald said future surges in cases are still possible.

“We’re going to be at risk for this kind of seasonal emergence of COVID, even if no new variant appears,” Gerald said, adding that immunity from omicron infections will likely begin waning by late summer or fall. “Many individuals who have gotten omicron once are going to be back up in the queue again within six to 12 months, and will be at risk for infection.”

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.