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Arizona Health Expert Optimistic About New Vaccine, Concerned About Surge In Coronavirus Cases

Published: Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 12:00pm
Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 2:18pm
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The state Department of Health Services reported 2,030 new cases of COVID-19 and 36 COVID-related deaths Nov. 11. The state has now confirmed more than 265,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, and so far 6,228 Arizonans have died.

The continuing rise in COVID numbers isn’t likely to stop in the near future, as we’re two weeks away from Thanksgiving. But there was some promising news on the vaccine front.

The Show spoke with Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at ASU, to learn about that and more.

LaBaer said the number of cases in Arizona is doubling roughly every two-and-a-half weeks.

"That’s not quite as fast as when the virus spread through Arizona this summer," LaBaer said during a Wednesday press conference. But there’s no sign that the spread is slowing down.

"That may have to do with fatigue, LaBaer said — Arizonans may be growing weary of social distancing, of wearing masks. There’s also less demand for testing, even though there are abundant options for free testing throughout Arizona, including tests offered by ASU.

Testing has helped ASU’s on-campus community slow the spread, he said.

“We have found that the more testing we do, the lower our numbers are,” he said. “Testing really chases the numbers down. It reminds people of what's going on, and it also reveals where the virus is, in those asymptomatic individuals, and then it prevents them from spreading it to other people.”

LaBaer recommends anyone who regularly goes out in public to get tested frequently.

But even those exercising caution, perhaps limiting their interactions to small gatherings, must be weary. Recent studies show that much of the spread of the virus is now occurring among small groups of people gathered indoors, LaBaer said 

Even at a distance, LaBaer said the virus can still spread in those gatherings. He compared the spread of the airborne virus to the smell of cigarette smoke.

“That's about what this sharing air is all about. You know, viral particles are around the same size as particles of smoke. And if you can smell smoke from a distance, then you probably can breath the virus from a distance,” LaBaer said.

As Arizonans make plans for the holidays, LaBaer said it’s best to avoid large gatherings and stick to visits with immediate family members who you already spend frequent time with.

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