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article imageArizona state health department tells modeling team to stop work

By Karen Graham     May 6, 2020 in Politics
Tucson - In an email, Monday night, the Arizona Department of Health Services disbanded its team of modelers, which was predicting the spread of the coronavirus and advising state leaders on the impacts of reopening the state.
The modeling team consisted of about two dozen scientists at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. They produced at least two reports for the Arizona Department of Health Services (AHDS). The reports were eventually released publically after repeated requests from ABC15 and other news agencies.
On April 20, According to ABC15, it appeared Arizona may reach its peak around May 22 or later, according to the new models from the two universities. However, a federal model suggests Arizona could reach its peak around June 11.
The email, from DHS bureau chief of public health statistics S. Robert Bailey, came on Monday evening after Governor Doug Ducey announced plans to begin easing social distancing in the coming days. A copy of Bailey's email, obtained by ABC15, said, "We've been asked by Department leadership to 'pause' all current work on projections modeling."
Bailey said he wanted the researchers to know about the change as soon as possible so they "won't expend further time or effort needlessly." He also mentioned the team might be asked to do some modeling in the fall, during the flu season.
The email added that the ADHS would also "pull back the special data sets which have been shared" with the researchers. The email thanked the team but gave no reason for discontinuing their work.
On Tuesday, an ADHS spokesman sent ABC15 an email explaining the decision: "The reason that ADHS is pausing the internal modeling is, as we have said before, we are looking at several national models and have determined that FEMA is the most accurate to help us develop and implement public health interventions to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak."
In a blog post on the Arizona Public Health Association's website, the organization's director, Will Humble, wrote he was astonished by the move to suspend the modeling group.
"Last night’s action to disband the Arizona COVID-19 Modeling Working Group begs the question whether the Modeling Working Group was producing results that were inconsistent with other messaging and decisions being made by the executive branch?" Humble wrote, according to AZCentral.
More about Arizona, coronavirus, pandemic models, researchers asked to stop, FEMA projections
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