At Least 1 In 10 Arizonans Has Had COVID-19

By Katherine Davis-Young, Amanda Day
Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - 4:20pm
Updated: Thursday, January 28, 2021 - 9:01am
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Arizona State University
Joshua LaBaer

This week Arizona's Department of Health Services reported the state has surpassed 700,000 total COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. More than one in every 10 people in the state has now tested positive for the virus.

But Dr. Josh LaBaer with ASU’s Biodesign Institute said those are only the cases we know about. He said the real total could be twice as high.

"I would not be surprised if as many as 20% of Arizonans or more had seen the virus," LaBaer said in a call with reporters Wednesday.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Arizona is now one of just seven states where more than 10% of the population has been infected. Nationwide, about 7% of the population has tested positive. 

Still, LaBaer said, the state will need to vaccinate millions before the virus is under control. 

“Even though many people have been infected, even many more than the official numbers, we’re still a long way off from herd immunity," LaBaer said. 

Arizona’s rate of new infections is also the highest in the country. Arizona has seen 92 cases for every 100,000 residents over the past seven days, according to CDC data from Wednesday. The national average is far lower at 50 cases per 100,000 people. 

LaBaer said new cases in Arizona have begun to plateau, but he said the virus is still far more widespread in our state than it was in spring or summer.

“The fraction of people that have it in Arizona is high. So if you’re in a room with at least 10 other people, there’s a very good possibility that at least one of them is spreading virus at that moment,” LaBaer said.

Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer of Valleywise Health warned Wednesday that a plateau or downward trend in cases in not a guarantee Arizona's outlook is improving. 

"If one of these more infectious or contagious variants were to enter the state of Arizona or here within Maricopa County we may see a surge in the March time frame," White said. 

White urged Arizonans to continue to wear masks and avoid large groups. 

→ Q&AZ: What You Need To Know About Getting The Coronavirus Vaccine In Arizona

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