750 new instances, 27 new recognized deaths

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Arizona passed 17,000 known COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday just over one year since the first reported death in the state, as metrics for the disease’s spread continue gradual moderation.

Arizona’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 45th Tuesday among all states and territories, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.

The states with a lower case rate over the past seven days were Wyoming, Hawaii, Alabama, Kansas, California, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Arizona ranked 51st among 60 states and territories on March 28, but its rank has been creeping up.

The state’s seven-day average for new reported COVID-19 cases was 631 on Wednesday, compared with 566 last Wednesday, per state data. The average had reached as high as 9,800 in January. 

The state’s seven-day death rate per 100,000 people ranked 29th in the nation as of Tuesday, per the CDC.

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 was 5% for the fifth week in a row and 7% the week before that, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity. Weekly percent positivity statewide peaked at 25% in December.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona’s seven-day moving average of percent positives at 2.7% as of Wednesday. 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.

But the state’s overall COVID-19 death and case rates since Jan. 21, 2020, remain among the worst in the country.

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began is 233 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, 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 is 167 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, the CDC said.

New York City has the highest death rate, at 375 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Mississippi.

Arizona’s case rate per 100,000 people since the pandemic began also ranks sixth nationwide as of Tuesday.

Arizona’s newly reported 27 deaths brought the known COVID-19 death count to 17,023. The state surpassed 16,000 deaths on March 2 after passing 15,000 deaths on Feb. 17, 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 2020.

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

A total of 846,230 COVID-19 cases have been identified across the state. February and particularly March saw relatively lower case reports. Twenty-nine of the past 31 days’ reported cases have been under 1,000.

The Arizona data dashboard shows 86% of all ICU beds and 88% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use Tuesday, with 9% of ICU beds and 7% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 235 ICU beds and 1,023 non-ICU beds were available. 

Hospitalizations for the disease have been generally dropping for about 12 weeks.

The total number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was 574 on Tuesday, an increase from 546 on Monday 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 2020 surge was 3,517 on July 13.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona was at 152 on Tuesday, similar to Monday and far 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 61 on Tuesday, about the same as Monday 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.

Tuesday saw 1,112 patients in the emergency room for COVID-19, well below the Dec. 29 single-day record of 2,341 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency departments across the state.

Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers, long-term care facilities and frontline first responders in mid-December. The state in early March shifted to a largely age-based rollout and in late March began allowing anyone 16 and older to start registering for appointments.

More than 2.4 million people statewide had received at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday, with more than 1.5 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, state data show. Arizona has about 5.6 million adults age 18 and older.

What to know about Wednesday’s numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 846,230.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 750, or 0.09%, from Tuesday’s 845,480 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the state health department, not by the date the tests were administered. 

Cases by county: 526,890 in Maricopa, 113,253 in Pima, 49,996 in Pinal, 36,814 in Yuma, 22,252 in Mohave, 18,377 in Yavapai, 17,221 in Coconino, 15,747 in Navajo, 11,669 in Cochise, 11,202 in Apache, 7,851 in Santa Cruz, 6,573 in Gila, 5,370 in Graham, 2,448 in La Paz and 567 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 16,009 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 9,216 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 30,182 cases and 1,259 confirmed deaths in total as of Tuesday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 12,215 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including 2,240 in Tucson, 2,024 in Eyman, 2,009 in Yuma, 1,303 in Lewis and 1,163 in Douglas; 43,652 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,742 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Forty-three incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 10 additional deaths under investigation.

Race/ethnicity is unknown for 17% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but 38% of positive cases have been diagnosed in white people, 30% Hispanic or Latino, 5% Native American, 3% Black and 1% 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 age 65 or older.

Laboratories had completed 4,089,100 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, 13.7% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests was at 5% for the past five full weeks. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The state health department 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) use 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. Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result. 

Arizona as of Tuesday 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 11,608 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 9,216 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April 2020.

Reported deaths in Arizona: 17,023

Deaths by county: 9,694 in Maricopa, 2,361 in Pima, 858 in Pinal, 821 in Yuma, 691 in Mohave, 521 in Navajo, 489 in Yavapai, 421 in Apache, 326 in Coconino, 281 in Cochise, 222 in Gila, 173 in Santa Cruz, 78 in La Paz, 77 in Graham and 10 in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older make up 12,765 of the 17,023 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, 50% 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 Wednesday morning was 2,876,538. The U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 556,561, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona’s death total of 17,023 deaths represents about 3.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.

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

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