COVID 19 Update May 8, 2020

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Hello. This is Dr. Jeff Mayer with another update on Covid 19. Today is Friday May 8, 2020.

Almost two months ago, Governor Ducey issued the first stay at home order to prevent the spread of COVID 19 Coronavirus. Since that order, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of illnesses and deaths due to COVID 19 nationwide. Arizona has its share of cases and deaths as well, yet thankfully not as bad as anticipated. Nonetheless, as of today, the state health department reports Arizona has 10,526 documented COVID 19 cases and 517 deaths.

A few days ago, Governor Ducey modified his stay at home order. Initially, it was to extend to May 15, yet he has now allowed certain businesses, such as hair stylists and even restaurants, to reopen today with social distancing and other infection control practices. From what I have read, he based this decision in part on the fact that we are seeing a lower percentage of COVID 19 tests be positive for the virus. He feels this indicates a significant reduction in risk of transmission of COVID 19. I respectfully disagree.
The number I most closely follow is the number of new cases reported each day. Specifically, I look at the weekly trend of new cases, rather than any individual day, because reporting of cases is often delayed. I see the number of new cases each day increasing. Part of this increase is a consequence of increased testing (and hence more detection). Yet I want to see the number of new cases trending well below 150 a day to feel confident that we are truly on the decline. We currently are still over 300 cases a day.

To refresh everyone’s memory, public health officials have used models to predict when different areas of the country would peak in terms of numbers of cases. Based on that, Arizona is believed to have peaked already. However, peak is followed by plateau, when we stay at that high level of new cases each day for a while. Decline is the final stage, when we see new cases go down each day until there are none. Just like plateau, the decline stage can last weeks or even months.

I therefore recommend that everyone continue to try to remain at home at least for the next week or two. I especially advise those at higher risk to be patient, and not see hair stylists, and not sit down in a restaurant just yet. If you can, I do encourage you to get outside and take a walk or do other outdoor activities. If you will not be around anyone else, you should probably be ok doing those activities without a mask. However, if you are in a more popular area such as on the Loop or Sabino Canyon, I do recommend a mask or similar nose and mouth covering while exercising.

With regards to the office, we now have enough protective equipment to begin seeing patients daily. However, we have postponed that date to May 18. When we start seeing patients, we will arrange appointments so we only have one patient in the office at a time.

Finally, this pandemic and the sudden changes it has caused to our country reminds me of an old African proverb I learned from Bishop Desmond Tutu (1984 Nobel Peace Prize recipient) at UCLA in the 1980’s. “There is a little bit of heaven in every disaster.” One can look at all the news reports and see this, yet on a more personal level, I hope each one of you can find your own little piece of heaven in this awful historical event.

Data from the Arizona state health department on number of new cases daily. Pay attention to the increase over the last week or so. Be aware the numbers/bars at the very far right of the graph are not up to date. The map reflects the breakdown by county of cases in Arizona.