9-18-20 Covid19 update

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This is Dr. Jeff Mayer with a quick COVID 19 update. Today is Friday, September 18, 2020.

The numbers in Arizona are increasing yet this change is due to how new cases are being counted rather than an increase in the number of infections. The state health department has now added positive results from antigen tests to the PCR results, which has caused the number of new cases reported to increase dramatically. The PCR test is still considered the better test, yet the antigen tests have the advantage of getting results back within minutes to hours versus days and are still accurate enough to be included in the total count.

More telling is the number of hospitalized patients with Covid19. Arizona continues to see lower numbers of hospitalizations for Covid, and yesterday was the second lowest count since the numbers began being reported publicly back in April. The death rate average has increased slightly to 19 a day over the last 7 days and this number may go up even more as some older data is introduced into the statistics. Currently though the belief is that the number of deaths remains stable.

Earlier this week, there was a directive to UArizona students to limit activity away from home. As noted in last week’s message, positive cases around universities throughout the country have increased dramatically due to students not heeding social distancing and mask wearing recommendations. Some universities have gone so far as to return completely to remote online courses again. The fear is these students will spread the infection in their surrounding communities leading to a new outbreak. Thankfully, we have not seen this yet.

Some patients are wondering about the safety of flying now. Information available is more speculative then authoritative since good studies have not been done. However, if people on a plane are primarily wearing masks and the middle seat is empty then the risk of getting a Covid infection on the plane is not too high given improved ventilation systems. A larger risk may be present if people are congregated close together when boarding the plane or when waiting near the gate. In those instances, social distancing may not be practiced as diligently as it needs to be, yet once again, mask wearing will help reduce the risk. Unfortunately, no activity around large numbers of people is without risk, so the decision to fly or not depends on an individual’s comfort in accepting that risk.

Finally, I wish everyone a happy and healthy week. Take care.