University COVID-19 modeling team to resume collaboration with ADHS

The announcement comes just three days after ADHS told the team to 'pause' its work

The Arizona Department of Health Services will continue to work with the ASU Arizona-specific COVID-19 modeling team, Chris Minnick, communications director for ADHS confirmed Thursday afternoon.

The announcement comes after ADHS told ASU and UA to "pause" its modeling projects as the state planned to begin reopening. The state planned to instead use modeling done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Arizona Republic reported.

"Understanding the demands on their time, we let them know we were putting the modeling project on pause until we could bring them back to assist with modeling COVID-19 resource requirements during the influenza season," Minnick said in a text message Thursday.

The announcement that ASU's modeling would continue pleased some Arizona members of Congress who complained that halting the project was political. 

"This is a huge relief," Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) said in a tweet Thursday. "Now, I hope the research and findings from the University expert team is carefully considered and utilized as we try and combat this virus."

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) said Gov. Doug Ducey and his administration are "responding to overwhelming public pressure (and) calls for continued data-driven modeling" by continuing the work. 

Even before the state asked for ASU to continue its work, a University spokesperson said the team was going to continue to produce and publish its Arizona-specific COVID-19 models.  

Minnick said that the ASU team expressed a willingness to continue to work on producing models after being told to halt their work, resulting in ADHS announcing an ongoing partnership with the team.

"In April, ASU, along with researchers from UA, were contacted by ADHS to form an ADHS Modeling Working Group that provided estimates on the number of COVID-19 cases, hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators and economic impact assessments," a University official said.

ASU's model, published on April 20, showed that COVID-19 infection rates will not begin to peak until mid-May. The most recent model had five scenarios, all of which had peaks in May, and are "dependent" on summer effects and social distancing, the report said. 

"Using the most up-to-date Arizona data on cases, deaths, and hospital capacity including ventilator use, and learning from the experience of other regions most similar to Arizona, our model provides a two- to four-week future projection specific to Arizona that can be continuously updated as social isolation measures begin to flatten the curve," the ASU modeling report said.

Ducey announced plans to reopen businesses such as salons, barbershops and dine-in restaurants in phases on Monday, saying that the diminishing of the virus in the state is "headed in the right direction." 

READ MORE: Ducey announces new plans to reopen businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic

As of Thursday, ADHS reported 9,945 active coronavirus cases and 450 deaths across the state, with 238 newly reported cases and 24 newly reported deaths.


Reach the reporter at wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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