There are many impacts that the holidays can have on COVID-19 in Arizona. With people traveling and gathering with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, we anticipate the cases and the need for hospitalizations to continue to increase over the next few weeks.
We also know the holidays can have an impact on our public health system, resulting in the final classification and reporting of cases to be delayed. During this time, ADHS has been in active communication with our public health partners at the local and federal level, and with our laboratory, hospital,and health care providers.
We continue to focus on containing the spread of the virus, ensuring adequate care is available for those who contract the disease and saving lives.
COVID-19 is highly contagious, and it is estimated 50% of the spread is due to asymptomatic individuals — an additional risk when gathering with loved ones or close friends. Many people let down their guard when they are with people they trust.
However, being in close proximity to someone with COVID-19 and not wearing a mask when with others from outside your household significantly increase your chances of being exposed to COVID-19. Many public health officials have urged people across the United States to keep holiday celebrations smaller and safer this year.
The holidays can also impact the review and reporting processes for COVID-19 data. Today, the number of new cases reported is up significantly from what has been reported in the past. This large number of newly reported cases is a result of the extended four-day weekend.
Most days, local health agencies review and classify newly reported cases (identifying them as confirmed, probable or not a case). They will follow up with health care providers and laboratories if there are any questions about details on a case, which may take additional time over the holidays.
The confirmed and probable cases identified are then reported out on our dashboard the next day as the number of new cases. With the long weekend, classification was delayed for a large portion of cases, resulting in much higher numbers than usual.
It is important to note these newly reported cases were from specimens collected over the last week and are not all from yesterday. Reviewing the Confirmed COVID-19 Cases by Day section of the COVID-19 dashboard will provide better context for when cases have occurred.
While last week’s higher numbers have a simple explanation due to the long weekend, the numbers are still trending in a concerning direction, especially considering the number of holiday parties and gatherings are expected to increase over the next few weeks.
The increased cases, percent positivity and hospitalizations show that COVID-19 is still actively circulating and dangerous. This highlights the need for Arizonans to continue taking important prevention steps they have been following over the past few months:
• Wearing a mask when out in public.
• Staying physically distanced from people who are not in your household.
• Washing your hands frequently.
• Avoiding large gatherings.
• Staying home when sick.
You can find out more about how to celebrate winter holidays safely amid COVID-19, including recent data and additional prevention strategies, at azhealth.gov/COVID19.
Dr. Cara M. Christ is director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.