A team of university experts producing pandemic models and projections in Arizona has been told to put their work on hold, the Arizona Republic reports. The team recently warned that coronavirus cases would surge unless reopening was delayed until at least the end of May, but the state government is easing restrictions a lot sooner. Soon after Gov. Doug Ducey announced Monday that restrictions would be eased, the panel received an email from Steven Bailey, the Arizona Department of Health Services chief of public statistics. It said department leaders wanted them to "pause" their work and explained that their access to special data sets used for modeling was being withdrawn.
The team of around two dozen researchers from Arizona State University and University of Arizona had been advising authorities on when it was safe to reopen, ABC15 reports. Cara Christ, the health department's interim director, says the state "may bring them back in the fall to look at modeling during flu season." She says the state is now relying on FEMA projections, which are not publicly available. In a blog post, Will Humble, director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said he was "astonished" by the move. He said it "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." (Read more coronavirus stories.)