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Amateurs talk cases, professionals talk logistics. The professionals are in charge in Arizona. Every state, and the Coronavirus Task Force, should take note and give their citizens the same level of information. Dr. Cara Christ, MD, is the Arizona Department of Health Services director. Watch how this works in its April 14, 2020, Arizona COVID-19 briefing.
First, Dr. Christ lays out the trends in cases. The first chart is from the Arizona coronavirus page, updated daily, giving us a snapshot of the current extent and geography of the disease.
The second and third slides give us the trends.
The hospital reporting on COVID-like illness, or what the feds are calling “influenza-like illness,” shows Arizona has been trending the right way for about two weeks now, even as our number of reported cases increase with testing.
Now we get to the professional stuff. Given the number of cases and the trends in hospital reporting, what is Arizona’s status on beds and ventilators?
You can see that, even though there has been an increase in cases reported, there has been essentially no change in the level of inpatient bed use. There has been, and remains, a large reserve of beds, forced by the government directed cancellation of “elective,” really non-emergency, surgeries. In Arizona, Dr. Christ.
Even in the case of ICU beds, with all their associated equipment and personnel, Arizona is in great shape. We never needed the Army Corps of Engineers to bring more rooms back into service. ICU use in Arizona has been steady for the past two weeks. That brings us to the hot button issue, driven nationally by willful ignorance of available data.
Dr. Christ made that the last chart of her update. We are not even scratching Arizona’s existing capability. Total use is sitting, rock steady, around 25 percent, including COVID-19 patients.
This steady, competent, professional message, conveyed in the accompanying brief, marks a change in tone from earlier panic button mashing. The earlier tone came from ignorance, at the state and county level, of what was ground truth in the hospitals. Apparently, hospitals were not required to report and, over two months past the first federal briefings and the China travel ban, the state had not bothered to get the facts straight.
On March 23, 2020, the day before Admiral Polowczyk stepped up to the White House press briefing microphone for the first time, Governor Ducey signed an executive order on enhanced surveillance,* compelling full reporting of relevant data. After the admiral from J-4 got the nation-wide logistics sorted out and told governors that he now had visibility on the ground truth in their states, the Arizona government went from “I need, I need”** to “we’re good, we’re good.” The whole April 14 briefing, with two weeks of good data, took on a calm, competent, forward-planning tone. Governor Ducey even announced the addition of a large capacity to test for antibodies, starting with health and emergency workers.
* Excerpt of Arizona governor’s executive order 2020-13
** From the April 3, 2020, Coronavirus Task Force briefing:
Q Because a lot of governors are saying that they can’t get what they need and different states have more pressing urgency, obviously, depending on the caseload.
REAR ADMIRAL POLOWCZYK: So we marry up — we’re marrying up where CDC — where the demand for COVID is to what’s in the commercial system. We’re providing that to these — to the commercial system. And we are making allocations to those of most pressing need.
Thirteen days — we now have the data. We now can make informed decisions. And so all of the “I need, I need, I need,” I now know the volume that has been happening and needs to be happening.