County health officials say social distancing efforts 'appear to be working' to slow the spread of COVID-19
County health officials are seeing a slower rise in hospitalizations. (Graphic by Community Impact Newspaper)
Data from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health is showing that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is growing at a slower rate since the end of March than in the weeks prior. County health officials say the slow down is likely due to the protective measures—like social distancing—the community is taking to slow the spread of the virus.
“When we look at the hospitalization epidemiology curve, we can see that the number of new severe COVID-19 cases is not growing as rapidly as it was several weeks ago,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health, in a news release. “This tells us that, while the number of severe cases is still increasing, we have started to flatten the curve in Maricopa County. This is important because, while this will not stop disease from occurring, it will spread it out more evenly over time so we have enough health care resources to give people the best health care when they need it."
On April 8, the county data showed that there were 318 hospitalized while the previous day's data showed 288 hospitalizations. Overall, there were 1,556 cases reported in Maricopa County as of April 8, of those cases 20% have been hospitalized.
County health officials say the data shows the county's efforts to "flatten the curve" are working.
An epidemiology or “epi” curve is a public health tool used frequently in outbreaks that visualizes how many cases occur over time, according to Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
"It’s an important tool to use because it tells us if the number of cases is growing rapidly and when we are over the peak," read the release from the county. "In the COVID-19 outbreak, slowing the spread of disease is important to keep the number of cases at any one time within the limits of what the local healthcare system is able to manage. A hospitalization epi curve looks specifically at those who are hospitalized, showing the trends of the most severe cases and allowing epidemiologists—public health experts who assess health data at the community level—to estimate how many are impacted with less-severe symptoms in the community even, when there is not enough testing available."
“The epi curve is a really good tool for telling us what is happening in our community as close to real time as we can get," Sunenshine said in the release. "It does not give us information the same day it happens or predict what will happen in the future. The best way to control the number of cases is if we all do our part to continue social distancing.”