PHOENIX — It's been weeks since the Arizona Department of Health Services has held a public briefing on the rising COVID-19 cases and deaths across the state.
The department reported nearly 2,000 new cases the day after the Labor Day holiday and tragically added 54 more deaths. Arizona surpassed one million cases since the start of the pandemic just last week and now more than 19,000 people have lost their battle to the virus.
“Really the topline message is that vaccines work," said Assistant Director of ADHS Jessica Rigler.
Only 50% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated, which is below the national average.
Nationwide, there are four times the amount of COVID-positive patients in hospitals since the end of May. The U.S. is leading the world in average weekly cases and daily cases are up 800% since the end of May.
ADHS has not held a public COVID-19 briefing since former director, Dr. Cara Christ resigned from the department last month.
“We are constantly re-evaluating our messaging strategies to determine what else we can do or how else we can reach people,” said Rigler.
The state maintains that vaccines are the best tool in bringing an end the pandemic and are continuing to work with more than 1,000 providers and several community partners to reach unvaccinated communities.
The slow uptick of the vaccine could lead to higher transmission of COVID-19 this fall as other respiratory viruses circulate the community.
“We think we will see other diseases circulating the same time as COVID We’ve already seen an increase in RSV across the state," said Rigler. "We expect to see increases in influenza which we did not see last year.”
The department says while new COVID-19 cases are somewhat plateauing, it's hard to know what the season will bring, but the message remains to get vaccinated for yourself and for others who don't have the opportunity.
“We’ve got a lot of kids who are too young to get vaccinated and that’s why it’s so important for everyone around them to be vaccinated," said Rigler. "That’s going to help reduce the disease circulating around the state.”
The department is considering holding weekly COVID-19 briefings in the future.
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