Keynote: A conversation with Cara Christ, MD

At the 2021 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference, Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), provided insight into the state’s response to COVID over the past 12 months, and looked ahead to the “new normal” as we hope to begin to put the pandemic behind us.


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As the director of ADHS, Christ has been the governor’s point person for response efforts since the beginning of the pandemic. She spoke about how the ADHS has maintained its response to the pandemic since the first case in Arizona in January 2020.

“We activated [our Health Emergency Operations Center] near the start of the pandemic in January. We activate it whenever there is a response that could require multiple areas of the agency to respond, so that we get that coordination and that collaboration through all parts of the department.”

Christ said the operations center is usually only operational for a couple days or weeks — but because of the global nature of this pandemic — the center has remained in use to this day.

As of Thursday, Arizona has had 882,691 cases of the virus and 17,653 deaths. They have administered just under 6 million doses of the vaccine, and 46.7% of Arizonans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

Christ urged continued caution as we transition out of the pandemic, and says the best way to move towards the “new normal” is for people to get vaccinated. 

When she looks past the pandemic, Christ said ADHS will focus on shifting to the goals of the Arizona Health Improvement Plan (AzHIP). The five priorities of this plan include addressing the mental wellbeing of Arizonans, social determinants of health, focusing on rural and underserved health, pandemic recovery and health equity.

Christ said it will be hard to transition out of the pandemic, but she is excited for what the future holds.

“I’m so encouraged to see all of you and all of our other public health and health care partners continue to fight for the health and wellness of Arizonans, and I am excited about the other community members who have come forward in support of health. I know that after we take a second to catch our collective breath that we can do great work together.”

Listen to the rest of Christ’s comments above or here