The Arizona Republic reports, ‘Time is right to move forward’: Ducey ends COVID-19 public health emergency in Arizona:

The emergency declaration that allowed Gov. Doug Ducey to take extraordinary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona, from mandating hospital data reporting to closing businesses, is over.

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The governor first declared a state of public health emergency on March 11, 2020, when there were just nine cases of the coronavirus in the state of over 7 million.

On Wednesday, just over two years later, he ended it.

“Thanks to the hard work of many — health care workers, businesses, public and private sector employees — COVID-19 is no longer an emergency in Arizona,” Ducey said in a statement. “This virus isn’t completely gone, but because of the vaccine and other life-saving measures, today we are better positioned to manage and mitigate it.”

No thanks to Governor Ducey and his former director of Arizona Department of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ, who were criminally negligent in their mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in thousands of unecessary deaths. This has been well documented here and elsewhere over the last two years.

The Ducey administration had discussed ending the emergency for months, but wanted to see temporary licenses granted to over 2,000 public health workers extended before doing so. [Because there is a critical nursing shortage in Arizona after the pandemic stressed the healthcare industry.] The Legislature quickly passed Senate Bill 1309 extending those licenses to Jan. 1, 2023, which Ducey signed into law last week.

[E]ven as cases decrease and many Arizonans return to a life that resembles pre-pandemic days, the scars of the once-novel virus remain.

From The New York TimesLast updated: 21 hours ago.

Arizona has the third-highest death rate from COVID-19 in the country, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that includes New York City. Only one other state, Mississippi, ranked higher than Arizona.

Cartoon from Steve Benson, Arizona Mirror

The governor’s handling of the pandemic has prompted criticism from all sides, with some saying he should not have closed businesses and others blasting him for reopening them too quickly. Even as he encouraged Arizonans to get the vaccine, Ducey stopped short of requiring it, a stance in line with Republican governors around the nation.

Our “Wimpy Kid” Governor caved to pressure from the QAnon/anti-masker, anti-vaxxer cult in the GQP crazy base. “Freedumb!” (Many of them were hospitalized and died).

“COVID-19 challenged us in ways we never could’ve imagined,” [not true] the governor’s statement reads. “No corner of our state — no corner of our country or the world — was spared. But we met that challenge head on by prioritizing lives, livelihoods and individual liberties. The time is right to move forward.”

This sonuvabitch is actually trying to declare victory after he is responsble for thousands of unnecessary deaths? There had better be a special place in hell for this contemptible man.

ICU beds with fewer COVID-19 patients

COVID-19 spikes that filled hospitals with patients seemingly have abated from their peak. Intensive care unit beds that peaked at 63% full with COVID-19 patients in January 2021 were just 7% full this week, according to state health data.

New COVID-19 cases reported last week were just above 2,000, compared to over 151,000 in the second week of January as the omicron variant of the virus swept the nation.

Ending the emergency doesn’t affect the state’s or counties’ ability to respond to some of the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, like distributing federal funding from the Democrat-backed American Rescue Plan Act to address homelessness and housing issues and boost employment.

While the emergency is now over, at least in name, state officials warned that COVID-19 will remain in the Grand Canyon State.

“COVID-19 is by no means completely through with us, however, and it’s reasonable to expect we will see increases in cases at times as the virus mutates to survive,” Dr. Richard Carmona, a former surgeon general and public health adviser to Ducey, said in a statement.

“We now have the experience and tools in place to address what may be to come while public health continues doing what we do best: infectious disease surveillance, prevention and control.”

As coronavirus infections rise in some parts of the world, experts are watching for a potential new COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — and wondering how long it will take to detect. Experts Worry About How US Will See Next COVID Surge Coming:

Despite disease monitoring improvements over the last two years, they say, some recent developments don’t bode well:

—As more people take rapid COVID-19 tests at home, fewer people are getting the gold-standard tests that the government relies on for case counts.

—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon use fewer labs to look for new variants.

—Health officials are increasingly focusing on hospital admissions, which rise only after a surge has arrived.

—A wastewater surveillance program remains a patchwork that cannot yet be counted on for the data needed to understand coming surges.

—White House officials say the government is running out of funds for vaccines, treatments and testing.

“We’re not in a great situation,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Brown University pandemic researcher.

Scientists acknowledge that the wide availability of vaccines and treatments puts the nation in a better place than when the pandemic began, and that monitoring has come a long way.

For example, scientists this week touted a 6-month-old program that tests international travelers flying into four U.S. airports. Genetic testing of a sample on Dec. 14 turned up a coronavirus variant — the descendant of omicron known as BA.2 — seven days earlier than any other reported detection in the U.S.

More good news: U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been falling for weeks.

But it’s different elsewhere. The World Health Organization this week reported that the number of new coronavirus cases increased two weeks in a row globally, likely because COVID-19 prevention measures have been halted in numerous countries and because BA.2 spreads more easily.

Some public health experts aren’t certain what that means for the U.S.

BA.2 accounts for a growing share of U.S. cases, the CDC said — more than one-third nationally and more than half in the Northeast. Small increases in overall case rates have been noted in New York, and in hospital admissions in New England.

Some of the northern U.S. states with the highest rates of BA.2, however, have some of the lowest case rates, noted Katriona Shea of Penn State University.

Dr. James Musser, an infectious disease specialist at Houston Methodist, called the national case data on BA.2 “murky.” He added: “What we really need is as much real-time data as possible … to inform decisions.”

HUNTING FOR VARIANTS

In early 2021, the U.S. was far behind other countries in using genetic tests to look for worrisome virus mutations.

A year ago, the agency signed deals with 10 large labs to do that genomic sequencing. The CDC will be reducing that program to three labs over the next two months.

The weekly volume of sequences performed through the contracts was much higher during the omicron wave in December and January, when more people were getting tested, and already has fallen to about 35,000. By late spring, it will be down to 10,000, although CDC officials say the contracts allow the volume to increase to more than 20,000 if necessary.

The agency also says turnaround time and quality standards have been improved in the new contracts, and that it does not expect the change will hurt its ability to find new variants.

Outside experts expressed concern.

“It’s really quite a substantial reduction in our baseline surveillance and intelligence system for tracking what’s out there,” said Bronwyn MacInnis, director of pathogen genomic surveillance at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

SEWAGE SURVEILLANCE

An evolving monitoring system is looking for signs of coronavirus in sewage, which could potentially capture brewing infections.

Researchers have linked wastewater samples to the number of positive COVID-19 tests a week later, suggesting health officials could get an early glimpse at infection trends.

Some health departments also have used sewage to look for variants. New York City, for example, detected signals of the omicron variant in a sample taken on Nov. 21 — about 10 days before the first case was reported in the U.S.

But experts note the system doesn’t cover the entire country. It also doesn’t distinguish who is infected.

“It’s a really important and promising strategy, no doubt. But the ultimate value is still probably yet to be understood,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Seattle/King County, Washington.

HOSPITAL DATA

Last month, the CDC outlined a new set of measures for deciding whether to lift mask-wearing rules, focusing less on positive test results and more on hospitals.

Hospital admissions are a lagging indicator, given that a week or more can pass between infection and hospitalization. But a number of researchers believe the change is appropriate. They say hospital data is more reliable and more easily interpreted than case counts.

The lag also is not as long as one might think. Some studies have suggested many people wait to get tested. And when they finally do, the results aren’t always immediate.

Spencer Fox, a University of Texas data scientist who is part of a group that uses hospital and cellphone data to forecast COVID-19 for Austin, said “hospital admissions were the better signal” for a surge than test results.

There are concerns, however, about future hospital data.

If the federal government lifts its public health emergency declaration, officials will lose the ability to compel hospitals to report COVID-19 data, a group of former CDC directors recently wrote. They urged Congress to pass a law that will provide enduring authorities “so we will not risk flying blind as health threats emerge.”

UPDATE:




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