Former state health director says omicron variant may redefine the COVID-19 pandemic

By Vaughan Jones
Published: Saturday, January 1, 2022 - 3:55pm
Updated: Sunday, January 2, 2022 - 9:11am

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COVID-19 vaccine
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COVID-19 vaccine vial and needle being prepared.

Arizona health officials added 8,220 new confirmed COVID-19 cases to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard Saturday, the most in a single day since January 2021.

Officials also added 125 COVID-19 related deaths Saturday, and more than 7,700 cases on Friday.

The department said last week that some upcoming daily case reports would be larger than normal due to reporting delays over the Christmas holiday weekend.

Fueling the rise is the more contagious omicron variant. Omicron was first identified in Arizona at the beginning of December. Omicron became the dominant variant in the state before Christmas, according to research from ASU’s Biodesign Team.

Will Humble
Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
Will Humble

Arizona Public Health Association Director Will Humble says the rapid spread of the variant may redefine the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I honestly believe that omicron is what’s gonna end up moving this from a pandemic to, what we call in epidemiology, an endemic, meaning sporadic cases happening continually, but no longer a public health emergency,” said Humble.

Humble says the spread of the omicron variant is compressing case totals, meaning that totals will be much higher in the short run, but lower in the long run.

According to the dashboard, the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide dropped slightly, but only 108 intensive-care beds were available as of Thursday.

Fifty-seven percent  of eligible Arizonans have been fully vaccinated, ranking the state 28th in that metric and five percentage points behind the national average.

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