Dec 4, 2020 Covid 19 update

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As we enter the holiday season, an unwelcome happening is the widespread increase in Covid 19 cases and deaths. Nationwide we are establishing new records daily and Arizona is unfortunately no different. Our 7-day average for new cases is now 4,585 which is the highest it has ever been. The number of tests positive (also known as the positivity rate) is 18% which is just one percent lower than the peak back in the summer. Over 350,000 people in Arizona have been infected with Covid 19 and almost 7,000 of them have died. Even with these high numbers, we are nowhere close to having immunity within the state, as we would probably need at least 70% of the population to be either infected or immunized against the virus, and we barely have 5% based on the available data.

On the bright side, vaccines are coming, and it is anticipated that the Pfizer vaccine will become available by the middle of the month here in Tucson. Initially, the first group of people to be vaccinated will be hospital and other health care workers and the two distribution centers will be TMC and Banner UMC. Complete vaccination consists of two shots 3 weeks apart.

The decision on whom to immunize first is a difficult one since initially there will not be enough doses for everyone. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) the committee of the CDC that guides all vaccination advisories and policies has recommended health care workers and nursing home residents as being the highest priority. However, state governors are free to modify this recommendation and indeed Governor Ducey has indicated he would like schoolteachers in the first group.

Many are concerned about the safety of the vaccine and consequently are reluctant to take it. Based on what I know thus far, I am comfortable with the vaccine’s safety and will be vaccinated when it is offered to me. It has not yet been established how the rest of the population in Tucson will be vaccinated once enough doses become available, although the state health department is discussing having mass vaccination sites similar to the drive-in sites currently being used for testing.

Just because a vaccine is available does not mean the danger is over. In fact, we are entering what is going to be one of the worst periods ever in this country in terms of public health and infectious disease. It remains imperative that everyone continue to wear a mask while out in public. It would also be wise to limit trips outside your home and to avoid public places. Take care and have a good week.