TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Scientists say COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are trending down in Arizona and in many parts of the country. The Pima County Health Department says hospitals are still straining under the pandemic, but ICU bed availability has improved into the double digits.
“The absolute number of cases and hospitalizations remains dangerously or critically high,” said University of Arizona Health Services Researcher Dr. Joe Gerald. “So, this should give us caution about resuming our normal behaviors.”
While the numbers are still too high, the rate of hospitalizations and cases started to trend down around Christmas. The cause is still unknown, but Gerald says there are a number of possible factors.
“My leading contender is the closure of universities and schools, because culturally all 50 states close school for the holidays to be with our families.”
He says it is also possible that the population may have developed some partial herd immunity.
“Someone who is infected is less likely to run into someone who is susceptible; they are becoming more likely to run into someone who has had it and recovered so the virus can’t propagate.”
Gerald says not enough people have been vaccinated yet for that to have been a contributing factor. But he says getting even just 20% of the population vaccinated could keep us moving in the right direction.
“It doesn’t completely get us out of the woods, but it really takes the edge of dramatic increases in cases and overwhelming our healthcare system,” he said. “So I’m very optimistic about the future.”
He says we may soon put the worst of the pandemic behind us, if people continue to stay vigilant about washing hands, social distancing, and staying home when sick.