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Health Insider: Holiday get-togethers won't help slow COVID pandemic

Virus Outbreak Thanksgiving Travel
Posted at 10:58 AM, Nov 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-28 12:58:04-05

PHOENIX — To contact the Arizona Department of Health Service's COVID-19 hotline, the number is 1-844-542-8201. Visit www.azdhs.gov/covid19 for resources and information on COVID-19 testing sites, vaccine clinics, and the virus.

The number of reported positive COVID-19 cases in Arizona continues to increase — a trend moving in the wrong direction, especially as families and friends gathered over Thanksgiving and will continue to get together for the upcoming holidays.

Raymond Embry, CEO of Embry Health, which operates dozens of COVID testing clinics in the Valley, said his test sites have seen an increase of 2,000 to 3,000 being given each day.

“The biggest takeaway here is that everything here is on the increase,” he told ABC15 on Saturday, referring to both demand for COVID-19 tests and COVID-positive results throughout the state.

“We’ve gone from about 10,000 patients per day, now up to 12,000 or 13,000,” he said, predicting that the upward trend will likely last into mid-to-late January as a result of holiday travel.

ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Shad Marvasti agrees.

"I expect in about 10 to 14 days from now, probably, you know, anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 more cases per day,” he said, adding that Arizona is currently one of the states leading in deaths, overall cases, and growth rates.

On Saturday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported more than 3,500 positive COVID-19 cases and 47 deaths, and again encouraged people to get the vaccine, the COVID-19 booster, and to wear a mask.

"It's absolutely concerning. It's not about just testing. It's a real increase in the numbers and it's because we never really went all the way back down in the numbers before Delta," said Dr. Marvasti.

If the numbers continue to increase, there may not be enough hospital beds or medical professionals to care for an increase in patients, he said.

Free COVID-19 testing continues to be available around the state — some sites are open 24 hours — and results are typically taking 1-3 days. Rapid tests, which produce results in hours, are not free and cost between $100-$200.

Embry said COVID-19 testing is one of the key components to ending the pandemic, something he hopes government agencies take into account .For this reason, Embry said continuing to have access to funding to keep PCR testing available is crucial.

To slow the spread, people need to do what officials have continuously said for months: “If people recognize that masks and mitigation measures work and so far vaccines work, and we actually take that seriously, then we can really make a difference here and save lives,” he said.