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Arizona gets 1st peek at data used to make COVID decisions. But a lot's left out

Health services director projects June 11 peak for hospitalizations but she's fuzzy on lifting stay-at-home order. Governor schedules 3 p.m. news conference.


For the first time, Arizona’s top public health official has released detailed, but far from complete, information on models that project the impact of the coronavirus on the state.

The clearest takeaway: Arizona has the health care resources - inpatient beds, intensive care beds, and ventilators - to handle the models’ projected surge in hospitalizations over the next two months.

Gov. Doug Ducey is scheduled to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the data. 

The new information, in a blog post Wednesday by Health Services Director Cara Christ, provides no data on projected coronavirus cases or deaths. 

It's unclear whether there's any data that meets the White House guidelines for reopening businesses.

Christ is ambiguous on whether the state’s preferred model, from federal agencies, supports lifting Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order, which expires in eight days, on April 30.

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Christ says the preferred model designed for Arizona predicts “peak resource utilization” -- peak hospitalizations -- “to occur around June 11, assuming our mitigation strategies are lifted at the end of the current Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected order on April 30.” 

Christ declares that the model, even with the order lifted, proves the stay-at-home order has worked.

“Given that our goal was to reduce transmission of COVID-19,” she said, “if this model holds true, this later peak would reflect the success of those mitigation strategies.” 

Christ doesn't provide specific numbers from the federal model, beyond the June 11 date. She says she's awaiting federal approval to share the data.

"This model appears the most realistic and the predictions are reassuring," Christ said.

The federal model was designed for Arizona by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and Federal Emergency Management Agency, Christ said. It's based on formulas from the Johns Hopkins University.  

Arizona businesses appear to be preparing for a mid-May reopening.

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Steve Chucri, president of Arizona Restaurant Association, told 12 News: “We’re hoping for mid-May or maybe the second week. But to see May 1 being the opening date, I want to be candid - I don’t see that being the case.”

Chucri added: "The public is going to be somewhat hesitant to just jump back into a dining room."

Arizona restaurants have seen almost 90 percent of their revenue wiped out by a month-long shutdown. 

Ducey has said his decision on the "stay at home" on whether to extend the order will be “data driven.” 

The latest Arizona data shows coronavirus deaths and confirmed cases continue to climb. 

In the last two days, the 42 reported deaths mark a 22 percent increase, to a total of 229.

Reported cases stand at 5,459, but the rate of growth has eased. There were about 1,300 cases when the governor issued his stay-at-home order at the end of March.

12 News and other media organizations filed public records requests several weeks ago for information on modeling that the state was using to make consequential policy decisions.

A “worst-case scenario” projection last month prompted the state to ban elective surgeries at hospitals.

Those surgeries are money-makers for hospitals. The ban, as well as other coronavirus-related factors, have resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The Mayo Clinic’s parent has projected losing almost a billion dollars. 

RELATED: CDC: First US coronavirus deaths happened weeks earlier than previously believed