Doctor shares COVID-19 update within the state as Omicron cases continue to surge

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The COVID-19 omicron variant is making for a spike in COVID cases around the state, along with a concern over the ability of healthcare systems to treat an increasing number of patients. When can we expect COVID case numbers and hospitalizations to peak? We asked, Dr. Joe Gerald, from the U of A’s Department of Community, Environment and Policy.

“Right now we’re in the midst of a really large Omicron surge, our cases have exceeded thresholds that have never been seen before in Arizona and this is going to last for another two weeks or so and it’s going to be a difficult time,” Gerald said.

Gerald added that his best guess for when Arizona will reach peak cases before the end of the month and hospitalizations will peak in early February.

Omicron will likely be talked about quite a bit for the next 6 to 8 weeks.

This variant tends to cause less severe illness in people on an individual basis.

But on a population level, Gerald added that it’s, “so much more infectious and also able to infect people who have been previously infected or vaccinated, that it still has the potential to overwhelm us by sheer numbers.”

“The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, even if that doesn’t fully protect you against re-infection, it doesn’t come with any of the negative consequences that having the live virus will,” Gerald said.

He continued that, “there’s essentially ‘zero’ risk of severe illness with the vaccine whereas even though Omicron is less severe than Delta, it doesn’t mean that it is not capable of sending you to the hospital or even causing your death.”

Joe K. Gerald, MD, PhD, Ass. Professor, UArizona Dept. of Community, Environment & Policy

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