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Experts fear third COVID wave already in Arizona

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TUCSON (KVOA) - According to officials, COVID-19 cases have been rising for well over a month. But, what's contributing to the rise?

News 4 Tucson spoke with Pima County Health Director Theresa Cullen Thursday regarding the rise. She said that the CDC moved Pima County from moderate to substantial COVID-19 spread earlier this week.

Cullen said that was the right move as cases rise fast.

The trend continues.

The State Department of Health, once again, reporting more than 1,100 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. In Pima County, there have been more than 150.

"I am increasingly concerned we are in the beginning of new wave," Cullen added.

Pima County health director Theresa Cullen said the Delta Variant is in our community and those case numbers are going up.

"There's no reason to think that our numbers of the Delta Variant will not continue to increase," Cullen said. "A highly transmissible variant, perhaps high morbidity associated with it."

More than half of eligible Arizonans have gotten at least their first dose of the vaccine.

University of Arizona Epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs said that "if the 49 percent of Arizonans who are not currently vaccinated all went in today to get their first shot they will not reach full protection for all four to five weeks yet, and so during that time it's really important people mask."

Cullen said with a growing number of cases, the numbers released over the next several days could be key.

"While we're not seeing a significant increase in hospitalizations, I think the next seven to 10 days will be telling for us," Cullen said. "And if the numbers continue to stay as high for instance as 150 cases a day, I would expect to see increased hospitalization."

Jacobs stresses the vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 outcomes but disagrees with the assessment of CDC Director Rochelle Wolensky who just last week said, "there is a clear message that is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated."

"Making a statement such as this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, ignores the impact of the pandemic on the rest of society as well," Jacobs said. "On the health care workers who are now going to be called upon to work in these conditions that they have already been through twice."

According to various medical teams including the CDC, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, there are currently 448 confirmed Delta Variant cases in Arizona since January of this year.

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Eric Fink

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