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Why experts say COVID-19 case averages are trending up in Arizona

Seven-day case averages in Arizona have risen the last three weeks.

PHOENIX — More than 23% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, the virus still continues to move through the community as thousands of new COVID-19 cases are reported each week.

7-day COVID-19 case averages inching up

Seven-day COVID-19 case averages have been inching up over the past few weeks, which has virus modelers keeping a close eye on what’s to come.

Credit: 12 News

Dr. Joe Gerald with the University of Arizona has been modeling COVID-19 projections in the state.

He calls the trend a "plateau" after a decline in cases following the winter surge.

Gerald said looser COVID-19 restrictions and more transmissible variants are part of the reasons why the change in the data.

“I think if we had maintained some of our policy restrictions a bit longer and people would have remained more adherent we could have pushed our rates down lower,” Gerald said.

Gerald said it’s possible that cases could rise more, but he doesn’t expect to see a surge like Arizona saw in 2020.

AZDHS: Some cases from over the course of the pandemic

A piece of the increase in cases is due to new labs being brought on and positive COVID-19 tests confirmed, according to state health director Dr. Cara Christ.

Christ said in a blog post about 625 cases were from over the course of the pandemic, and most of them were from the winter surge.

However, Christ said they are watching the trends.

“We may see cases go up,” Christ said. “But if the same impact to our healthcare systems and deaths does not occur we’re going to continue to monitor and stay the course.”

Transmission rates still higher than the fall

COVID-19 data does look comparatively better than the winter surge, however, Gerald said the state could still improve into a better position.

“Our community transmission levels are still in the substantial category and much higher than in between the summer and fall outbreaks,” Gerald said. “So it’s too early to call conditions safe.”

Gerald said in order to see improvements from where the state is with COVID-19, time and continued precautions are needed.

“I still think we still have another four to six weeks of hard work ahead of us before we might see more sustained improvements in our case counts,” Gerald said.

Vaccinations will help in the future

Arizona State University’s COVID-19 modeling team estimated that 1,000 people’s lives will have been saved come May 1 because of the number of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Gerald is hopeful Arizonans will take up the vaccine, even though supply is starting to reach demand when it comes to the COVID vaccines in the state.

Christ said 18,000 appointments were still available Monday morning from the state’s drop of appointments on Friday.

Gerald warns though the state is still a while off from reaching herd immunity.

“The No. 1 answer remains: Get vaccinated,” Gerald said.