Dr. Cara Christ: 'Some Positive Signs' On COVID In AZ, Mask Mandates Helped

Published: Thursday, July 16, 2020 - 3:08pm
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Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
Dr. Cara Christ

The state Department of Health Services reported another 58 Arizonans have died due to COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,492 Arizonans lost to the pandemic as of July 16. On the same date, the state also reported more than 3,200 new cases of COVID-19. That number is better than the daily caseload reported one week earlier, when the state recorded more than 4,000 new cases on July 9.

But Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute, said July 15 that it’s not time to back off our efforts to contain the virus.

“There is a trend here that we have flattened somewhat," LaBaer said. "We’re obviously flattened at a very high rate. We’re still clocking around 3,500 cases a day, and we don’t want 3,500 new cases a day. We want to get that much lower.”

LaBaer said now is the time to hit the brakes harder — because while our caseload is not accelerating as rapidly as it was, there is still significant community spread — and we don’t fully understand what that could mean in the long term.

“It’s easy, and I think a lot of us have fallen into this trap of just assuming this is just like any other cold and, if you get through it, you’re probably fine," LaBaer said. "We don’t know that yet. I think we have to be careful about drawing any conclusions until we’ve had enough chance to study it. This is a virus that we’ve only known about for six or seven months, period. So, we really don’t know what it can do.”

Raymond Embry is the business manager of Embry Women’s Health, which has been providing free coronavirus testing since March.

He told NPR’s Morning Edition the clinic has received no help — apart from the Arizona National Guard — to test people and get them results in a timely manner. And after July 16, he said he’s not sure where they’ll even get the materials they need to keep up their limited efforts.

“You know, sometimes I ask myself and we ask each other what is the point of testing people if it takes five to seven business days for results to come back, especially for asymptomatic individuals," Embry said. "You know, nobody is just sitting at home. How many other people have they interacted with? And now, they’ve found out that they’re positive.”

Embry’s fear that people are not getting test results in time to make a difference is just one of many concerns he and other professionals have shared in the months since the pandemic arrived in Arizona. And he, like others on the frontlines, criticized the state for not doing more.

For more on the current state of the pandemic here, and how much progress has been made, The Show spoke with Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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