1,184 new circumstances, 148 new recognized deaths

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Arizona reported a relatively low 1,184 new COVID-19 cases and high 148 new known deaths on Tuesday as hospitalizations for the disease and percent positivity for tests continue to decline. 

Arizona’s seven-day new-case average ranked 17th on Monday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.

The state’s rate of new positive cases over the past seven days was 21 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. New York City was first with 49.6 cases per 100,000. The U.S. average for new cases was 19.4 cases per 100,000 people. 

The state’s average daily COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people over the past seven days ranked sixth in the nation as of Monday, per the CDC. 

Arizona’s newly reported 148 deaths brought the known COVID-19 death count to 15,650. The state surpassed 15,000 deaths on Feb. 17 after passing 14,000 deaths on Feb. 6 and 13,000 deaths on Jan. 29, just one week after it passed 12,000 and two weeks after 11,000 deaths. The state exceeded 10,000 known deaths on Jan. 9. Arizona’s first known death from the disease occurred in mid-March.

Many of the deaths occurred days or weeks prior, due to reporting delays and death certificate matching.

In slightly over one year since the first case was announced in Arizona, a total of 810,658 COVID-19 cases have been identified across the state. February has seen relatively lower case reports. 

The Arizona data dashboard shows 84% of all ICU beds and 86% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use Monday, with 26% of ICU beds and 18% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 279 ICU beds and 1,177 non-ICU beds were available.

Hospitalizations for the disease have been dropping for about six weeks but remain at relatively high levels. 

The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 1,515 on Monday, a slight drop from Sunday’s 1,590 inpatients and far below the record 5,082 inpatients on Jan. 11. By comparison, the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer surge was 3,517 on July 13.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona was at 447 on Monday, down from 478 on Sunday and below the record high of 1,183 on Jan. 11. During the summer surge in mid-July, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.

Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators tallied 266 on Monday, down from 299 on Sunday and well below the record high 821 reached on Jan. 13. During the summer surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use, with 687 patients.

Monday saw 1,072 patients in the emergency room for COVID-19, below the Dec. 29 single-day record of 2,341 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency departments across the state.

Percent positivity, which refers to the percent of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, has been declining but varies somewhat based on how it’s measured.

Last week, Arizona’s percent positivity remained at 9% for the second week in a row, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity. Percent positivity was between 4% and 6% for much of August, September and October, according to state data.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona’s seven-day moving average of percent positives at 5% as of Tuesday. It shows the state’s percent positivity peaked at 24.2% in December.

A positivity rate of 5% or less is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.

Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for Phase 1A the week of Dec. 14, but the process has moved slowly because of limited vaccine supply. Registration is open in counties for priority or all Phase 1B individuals and in most places for those 65 and older. Gov. Doug Ducey said the vaccine will be free for anyone.

More than 1 million people statewide had received at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday, with about 413,700 people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses, state data show. 

What to know about Tuesday’s numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 810,658.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 1,184, or 0.15%, from Monday’s 809,474 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services, not by the date the tests were administered. 

Cases by county: 506,662 in Maricopa, 108,630 in Pima, 45,754 in Pinal, 36,348 in Yuma, 20,961 in Mohave, 16,937 in Yavapai, 16,298 in Coconino, 15,495 in Navajo, 11,067 in Cochise, 10,328 in Apache, 7,609 in Santa Cruz, 6,357 in Gila, 5,272 in Graham, 2,382 in La Paz and 555 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Yuma County, followed by Apache, Santa Cruz, Navajo and Graham counties, per state data. The rate in Yuma County is 15,806 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began was 8,415 cases per 100,000 people as of Monday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 29,551 cases and 1,145 confirmed deaths in total as of Monday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal leaders halted weekend lockdowns after Jan. 25, although a stay-at-home order and nightly curfew remained in effect. 

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 11,903 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, including 2,236 in Tucson, 2,005 in Yuma, 1,974 in Eyman, 1,307 in Lewis and 1,158 in Douglas; 43,602 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,654 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Thirty-five incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 18 additional deaths under investigation.

Race/ethnicity is unknown for 18% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but 37% of people are white, 30% are Hispanic or Latino, 5% are Native American, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, 16% were younger than 20, 44% were 20-44, 15% were 45-54, 12% were 55-64 and 13% were over age 65.

Laboratories have completed 3,709,365 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19, 14.5% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests had increased since mid-May but began decreasing in July and held steady around 4% for several weeks, per the state. It was at 9% for the last full week. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The Arizona Department of Health Services includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine current infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) are a newer type of COVID-19 diagnostic test that uses a nasal swab or another fluid sample to test for current infection. Results are typically produced within 15 minutes. 

A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there’s an increased chance of false-negative results, the Mayo Clinic says. Depending on the situation, Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result. 

Arizona as of Monday had the sixth-highest overall case rate in the country since Jan. 21, 2020. Ahead of Arizona in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began are North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah and Tennessee, according to the CDC.

Arizona’s infection rate is 11,100 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 8,415 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early on in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April. 

Reported deaths in Arizona: 15,650

Deaths by county: 8,909 in Maricopa, 2,180 in Pima, 774 in Yuma, 751 in Pinal, 631 in Mohave, 484 in Navajo, 450 in Yavapai, 371 in Apache, 307 in Coconino, 264 in Cochise, 211 in Gila, 166 in Santa Cruz, 72 in Graham, 71 in La Paz and nine in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older made up 11,730 of the 15,650 deaths, or 75%. Following that, 15% of deaths were in the 55-64 age group, 6% were 45-54 and 4% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity was unknown for 7% of deaths, 49% of those who died were white, 29% were Hispanic or Latino, 8% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data show.

The global death toll as of Tuesday morning was 2,476,826, and the U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 500,443, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona’s death total of 15,650 deaths represents 3.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of Tuesday. 

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began was 213 per 100,000 people as of Monday, according to the CDC, putting it sixth in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average was 149 deaths per 100,000 people as of Monday, the CDC said.

New York City had the highest death rate, at 343 deaths per 100,000 people. After that followed New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Mississippi.

Reach the reporter at Alison.Steinbach@arizonarepublic.com or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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