1,918 new instances, 145 new recognized deaths

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Arizona reported more than 1,900 new COVID-19 cases and 145 new known deaths on Friday as hospitalizations for the disease dropped slightly, continuing more than five weeks of declining hospital numbers. 

Arizona’s seven-day, new-case average ranked 20th on Thursday 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 23.2 cases per 100,000 people, per the CDC. South Carolina was first with 53.4 cases per 100,000. The U.S. average for new cases was 23.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

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

Arizona’s newly reported 145 deaths brought the known COVID-19 death count to 15,421. The state surpassed 15,000 deaths on Wednesday 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 just over one year since the first case was announced in Arizona, a total of 804,116 COVID-19 cases have been identified across the state. February has seen relatively lower case reports. 

The Arizona data dashboard shows 86% of all ICU beds and 88% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use Monday, with 32% of ICU beds and 20% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 240 ICU beds and 995 non-ICU beds were available.

Hospitalizations for the disease have been dropping gradually for over five weeks but remain at relatively high levels. 

The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 1,738 on Thursday, down from 1,823 on Wednesday and 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 563 on Thursday, close to Wednesday’s 566 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 334 on Thursday, similar to Wednesday’s 330 and 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.

Thursday saw 1,228 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 remains above the ideal.

Last week, Arizona’s percent positivity stood at 9%. For the week prior to that, it was 12%, 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 5.5% as of Friday. It shows the state’s percent positivity peaked at 24.2% in December.

A positivity rate of 5% 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 multiple counties for priority 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 one million people statewide had received at least one vaccine dose as of Friday, with about 353,800 people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses, state data show. 

What to know about Friday’s numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 804,116.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 1,918, or 0.24%, from Thursday’s 802,198 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: 502,454 in Maricopa, 107,793 in Pima, 45,267 in Pinal, 36,219 in Yuma, 20,750 in Mohave, 16,812 in Yavapai, 16,185 in Coconino, 15,376 in Navajo, 10,919 in Cochise, 10,236 in Apache, 7,601 in Santa Cruz, 6,333 in Gila, 5,244 in Graham, 2,378 in La Paz and 549 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 Santa Cruz, Apache, Graham and Navajo counties, per state data. The rate in Yuma County is 15,750 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began was 8,334 cases per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 29,386 cases and 1,127 confirmed deaths in total as of Thursday. 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 11,867 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 2,237 in Tucson, 2,005 in Yuma, 1,974 in Eyman, 1,307 in Lewis and 1,130 in Douglas; 43,594 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,648 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Thirty-four incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 17 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 3,668,974 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19, 14.6% 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 Thursday 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 11,005 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 8,334 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: 15,421 

Deaths by county: 8,765 in Maricopa, 2,144 in Pima, 769 in Yuma, 741 in Pinal, 624 in Mohave, 478 in Navajo, 447 in Yavapai, 365 in Apache, 306 in Coconino, 260 in Cochise, 209 in Gila, 166 in Santa Cruz, 71 in Graham, 68 in La Paz and eight in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older made up 11,561 of the 15,421 deaths or 75%. Following that, 14% 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 Friday morning was 2,444,074 and the U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 493,138, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona’s death total of 15,421 deaths represents 3.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of Friday. 

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began was 206 per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC, putting it eighth in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average was 147 deaths per 100,000 people as of Thursday, the CDC said.

New York City had the highest death rate, at 340 deaths per 100,000 people. After that followed New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Connecticut and South Dakota. 

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

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