Arizona Health Officials Use Alternate Methods To Track Coronavirus

Published: Monday, April 6, 2020 - 5:22pm
Updated: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 7:51am

Daily reports show the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to grow, but don’t necessarily capture the whole picture. 

A lack of robust testing means that the numbers being reported underrepresent the spread of the disease, according to Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control in Maricopa County.

“We also know that anybody who doesn’t have any symptoms at all but still has the disease is very unlikely to get tested,” she said. “So not just for COVID-19, but for any disease, you know that the numbers we’re seeing underrepresented how many cases are actually out there.”

When tracking any disease, she said health officials always rely on other tried-and-true methods.

“Those are things like measuring the emergency room visits for influenza-like illness, which we know now that flu is gone typically represents COVID-19. We closely follow the number of people hospitalized, which we know tends to be a lot more accurate,” Sunenshine said. “So we have plenty of other ways to monitor situational awareness, know where we are on that curve, and make appropriate recommendations for strategies when we see things change.”

Sunenshine said health officials anticipate the peak spread of the disease will occur in the next two to four weeks, though it’s impossible to predict precisely when that will be.

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