Updated 3:00 pm May 7

Back in late April the ADHS released a model developed by the “COVID-19 Modeling Working Group” (Authors: Tim Lant, PhD, MAS; Megan Jehn, PhD; Esma Gel, PhD; Anna Muldoon, MPH; Heather Ross PhD, DNP, ANP-BC and several researchers at the UA including Dr. Joe Gerald).

The team developed an Arizona-specific predictive model providing state-specific projections of new cases and deaths based on the best available science and Arizona case data. The most recent model run produced projected daily counts for infected individuals, ICU use, and deaths for five different scenarios.  The state modeling team report also provides scenario-based estimates of resource needs for hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators but doesn’t include a capacity assessment.  Very solid work being done by top talent in the field that is very useful for decision-making purposes.

Astonishingly, the ADHS sent a letter to the Working Group last night hours after the governor and health director’s press conference ending the stay at home order. ADHS told the modeling team to stop their work, discontinue producing predictive models, and to return the data that the working group was given by the ADHS. Interestingly, the request came hours after the governor and director Christ announced that they were fully ending the stay at home order on May 15, at which time bars, restaurants etc. will all allowed to be open. They will be encouraged to implement CDC mitigation measures but there won’t be any enforcement.

The letter asking them to stop work didn’t provide any reason for the request except that it was at the direction of ADHS’ senior leadership.

The only remaining predictive model that the state health department is now using has been developed by FEMA.  Neither that model nor the predictive modeling results from the FEMA model are publicly available.

Last night’s action to disband the Arizona COVID-19 Modeling Working Group begs the question of whether the Modeling Working Group was discontinued because they had been producing results that were inconsistent with messaging and decisions being made by the executive branch?

May 7 Update 12:00 pm

Yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours after being asked to “pause” their work, Arizona State University released the following statement:

“During the pandemic, Arizona State University has conducted modeling data research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Arizona. 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. ASU’s was one of several public health models ADHS used for guidance on its public health decisions. With the Governor’s announcement of updated Arizona COVID-19 guidelines on May 4th, the working group was notified by ADHS to discontinue its services until the fall. Moving forward, ASU will continue to perform its COVID-19 research projects, and will make these updates publicly available during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

We applaud ASU for continuing their predictive modeling work despite the request that they discontinue their work. Sadly, the Team will no longer have access to some of the data sets that are in the sole possession of the ADHS, but we have no doubt that the Team will continue to produce high quality work that will be inform the people of Arizona and some of our elected and appointed officials.

Kudos to the COVID-19 Modeling Working Group!

May 7 Update 3:00 pm

The ADHS released the following statement:: “Earlier today we communicated with the members of the University modeling team and we’re pleased to announce an ongoing partnership to continue providing models….”

So… it appears that the media attention on this issue over the last several hours triggered an attitude adjustment among the senior leadership of ADHS and the Team will continue to receive data and produce more predictive COVID-19 models for the people of Arizona.

Cheers to the 1st Amendment!