Thursday, June 11, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 Roundup for Thursday, June 11: Confirmed Cases Top 31K; Hospitals Nearing Capacity; Wildfires Still Burning North of Tucson

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 9:14 AM

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona surpassed 31,000 as of Thursday, June 11, with another jump of 1,412 new cases reported this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had 3,479 of the state's 31,264 confirmed cases.

A total of 1,127 people have died after contracting the virus, including 218 in Pima County, according to the report.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 16,018.

Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.

Arizona hospitals continue to see a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, 1,291 Arizonans were hospitalized. There are 429 COVID patients in ICU units and 848 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 10, according to the report.
When Ducey lifted Arizona's stay-at-home order on May 16, he noted that CDC gating criteria included two weeks of falling cases or two weeks decreasing positive cases as a percentage of total tests. Total cases continue to rise, as does the number of positive cases as a percentage of total tests. On May 17, the percentage of positive tests to total tests was 6 percent; on May 24, it was 9 percent; on May 31, it was 12 percent, according to figure on the ADHS website.

At a June 4 press conference, Ducey said he and Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ anticipated the current increase in positive COVID-19 cases because testing has “dramatically increased” within the state. Christ downplayed the alarm about the recent increase in cases, which some have attributed to the end of the stay-at-home order on May 15, saying “as people come back together, we know there will be transmissions of COVID-19.”

While they admitted new cases are to be expected when people begin to interact again, Ducey and Christ said their main focus was to ensure that hospitals had the capacity for an increase in cases. They reported that the current use of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators were all within capacity last week.

“The fact that we were going to focus on having more tests means we were going to have more cases,” Ducey said. “We anticipated that. What we wanted to do was to be prepared for this.”

But Banner Health officials warned last week that unless current trends changed, they would have to activate a reserve bed plan as their ICU beds were nearly full.

In other news:

• The University of Arizona yesterday announced expanded testing eligibility for COVID-19 antibodies, which indicate whether you have had COVID-19 and may be at least temporarily immune to the virus. Hospital employees, healthcare professionals licensed by the boards of naturopathy, homeopathy, podiatry, chiropractic examiners, optometry and nine other health care categories are all eligible, as well as corrections officers and child safety workers employed by the state. The university also announced a new testing site in Nogales, Arizona. According to UA, the roughly 6,000 blood samples analyzed during the first phase of testing in Pima County resulted in no false positives. Registration for the test is available at this website, where participants also can find a list of all the groups eligible for testing. 

• Fire crews continue to battle two blazes that have each burned more than 1,000 acres north of Tucson: the Bighorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Fire in the Tortolita Mountains. Lightning storms caused both fires, which are growing worse thanks to gusty weather and high temperatures.

The Bighorn Fire ignited on the evening of June 5, burning across the Pusch Ridge in clear view of Oro Valley. The fire had burned 3,277 acres and was 10 percent contained, according to a morning update today. Catalina State Park has been closed and the Arizona Emergency Information Network says the following trails may be impacted by the fire: Romero Canyon, Pusch Peak, Pima Canyon, Finger Rock and Ventana Canyon. Approximately 100 fire personnel and multiple helicopters are fighting the Bighorn Fire, which is 10 percent contained as of the June 11 morning update.

The Tortolita Fire also started on June 5 and has spread to an estimated 3,300 acres. More than ninety fire personnel are fighting the Tortolita Fire. According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, parts of Cochise Spring Road have been closed. The Tortolita Fire is two miles from the Cochise Spring area, west of Tortolita and Christopher Ranch, east of Marana. There are no evacuations at this time. The fire is 60 percent contained as of the evening of June 9.

Fire crews remind the public that drones are prohibited over the fire area, as firefighting aircraft are busy and must be grounded in drones' presence. On June 5 a drone incursion resulted in "an investigation with the drone operator being issued a violation notice."

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