ASU Biodesign Institute Director On The Coronavirus: 'We're Not Too Late'

Published: Monday, March 23, 2020 - 3:13pm
Updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 9:16am
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Jean Clare Sarmiento/KJZZ
ASU's Biodesign Institute in Tempe.

As the daily count of people who have COVID-19 increases, state and federal health officials are warning that this is just the beginning — both in terms of response and the number of patients who will require medical attention.

And we have an update on the numbers of coronavirus cases in our state just since last hour. According to the state, there are now 234 cases across Arizona, and there have been two deaths because of the virus. 

On Friday, state health director Dr. Cara Christ warned that Arizona would not be the exception. 

“We do expect to see more COVID-19 in Arizona, and with that, we expect to see increased hospitalizations and additional pressure on our health care system," Christ said. 

It’s that pressure on the system that has officials most concerned. Christ has been upfront about potential shortages in medical supplies, particularly ventilators for people with respiratory problems. And she’s encouraging Arizonans to help avoid a rush on emergency rooms by staying home. 

“Many, if not most individuals will experience mild symptoms. To protect our health care system, we recommend that people with mild symptoms of the disease stay at home, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and call their health care provider if they have questions regarding which medications you should take to treat your symptoms," she said. 

Biodesign scientists are working to develop better and faster testing for coronavirus and tracking the spread as it infects people all over the world. 

As Christ has repeatedly said, there are simply not enough tests for everyone who wants to be tested. She is urging calm - even as she and her team prepare for a spike in cases.  

“We need everyone to understand that in the coming weeks and months, we will see large numbers of cases and people will become critically ill. We understand how this can cause concern and anxiety in our communities, but my team and the state’s public health professionals are engaged in this response 24/7," Christ said. 

There are researchers all over the country — and world — working to develop vaccines for the new coronavirus. And three of them are here at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, which is working with everything from plant-based healing to learning lessons from past smallpox epidemics to find answers. 

Dr. Josh LaBaer is the executive director of Biodesign Institute, and The Show spoke with him more about all of this.

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