Omicron variant of COVID-19 still a concern, fire chief says
Courtesy of City of Chandler
Chandler Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins made a presentation and took a few questions at a November meeting about COVID-19 and other health concerns, as requested by Councilman O.D. Harris. Dwiggins said hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are much lower than a year ago, but vaccinations and annual flu shots are highly encouraged.
CHANDLER — Chandler Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins said COVID-19 hasn’t gone away.
“Across the state, we’re seeing about 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 per week in Maricopa County, and that’s been consistent for the past four weeks,” Dwiggins said.
At the request of Councilman O.D. Harris, Dwiggins made a presentation and took questions on COVID-19, avaian or bird flu and influenza in general at a recent meeting. He said the positivity rate has stayed largely in the 12% range.
“However, with the ability to test at home, very few people are reporting positive tests with limited or no symptoms to the state, and even fewer negative tests, so the useful data we have now is from our hospitals,” Dwiggins said.
The chief pointed out that while the percentage of COVID-positive patients in Arizona ERs was near 20% in November of both 2020 and 2021, showed a spike that only went to 7% in May of this year and another small spike that only went up to 2.5% the week of Oct. 30.
“Our hospitals are not being overwhelmed,” he said. “I also looked into Chandler zip codes and our rate of community spread is low.”
Regarding the flu in general, Dwiggins said, January is typically the peak time for the flu. However, he did show that so far this fall/winter, Arizona is outpacing its own five-year average for number of cases statewide.
Public health officials statewide have encouraged Arizonans to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and flu shots as well.
Dwiggins said vaccinations can minimize severe reactions to the illness and other health precautions can prevent spread of COVID-19.
“It’s handwashing, sanitizer and all the things we’ve been all talking about for the past three years,” Dwiggins said.
Regarding the bird flu, or the H5N1 virus, Dwiggins said there have been no cases of humans contracting the virus. Only one American person has contracted it, and that Colorado resident fully recovered.
Arizona Game and Fish reported about 30 Canadian geese found dead of bird flu around a lake community near McQueen and Frye roads in Chandler.
Jason W. Brooks is an associate editor for the Daily independent.
He covers the Buckeye area and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Brooks is a well-traveled journalist who has documented life in small American communities in nearly all its time zones. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised there and in suburban Los Angeles, he has covered community news in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.