The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 202,000 as of Monday, Aug. 31, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County had seen 21,221 of the state’s 201,835 confirmed cases.
A total of 5,029 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 576 deaths in Pima County, according to the Aug. 31 report.
The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 30, 786 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. That number peaked at 3,517 on July 13.
A total of 894 people visited ERs on Aug. 30 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7 and has bounced between 900 and 1,100 for most of August.
A total of 256 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Aug. 30, the lowest that number has been since April 9, when 248 people were in ICU. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.
In Pima County, the week-by-week counting of cases peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,398 cases, according to an Aug. 26 report from the Pima County Health Department. Those numbers have dropped with Pima County requiring the wearing of masks in public but they have bumped upward recent weeks, with 804 cases in the week ending Aug. 8 and 930 cases in the week ending Aug. 15. (Not all recent cases may have been reported.)
Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 to 35 for the week ending Aug. 8 and 15 for the week ending Aug. 15.
Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 247 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals. For the week ending Aug. 15, 63 COVID patients were admitted to Pima County hospitals.
Gyms, movie theaters, other biz reopening
Gyms, movie theaters and water parks were allowed to reopen last week in Pima, Maricopa and six other counties after they hit certain benchmarks that indicated “moderate” COVID-19 transmission category last week.
Businesses that want to reopen are required to fill out a form indicating they would abide by state regulations, which include enhanced cleaning requirements, masks for patrons and staff and symptom screening. Gyms are limited to 25 percent capacity and indoor theaters, water parks, tubing operations and bars and nightclubs that provide dine-in service are limited to 50 percent capacity. Bars and nightclubs that do not offer food service still must remain closed.
In a blog post, ADHS Director Cara Christ praised Arizonans for working together to slow the virus' spread since mid-July. However, she warned business owners and Arizonans alike to stay vigilant, keep wearing masks and remain at home if sick to help keep the state's metrics trending downward.
Christ warned business owners who fail to follow the new requirements “will be subject to strict enforcement. The Department will continue to partner with local authorities, county health departments, and other state agencies to ensure proper compliance and protect the health and safety of customers and employees."
Theaters and gyms reopening
With the green light from the state, gyms and some movie theaters have been reopening with limited capacity.
Harkins Theaters reopened in Southern Arizona locations with new safety and sanitation protocols on Friday, Aug. 28, with Marvel's The New Mutants and Unhinged with Russell Crowe, as well as a special 10th-anniversary screening of Inception.
All customers and staff are required to wear masks. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided by the theatre. There will also be social distancing required through the facilities, staggered showtimes to reduce the number of customers in the lobby, sanitizer stations, air filtration systems and reserved seating in all theatres.
Tucson's Harkins Theatres are located at 5755 W. Arizona Pavilions Drive and 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz.
Huckleberry: Confusion and mixed messages from state and feds
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry expressed concern about mixed messages coming from the state and federal government regarding the reopening of gyms, movie theaters and other businesses closed by Ducey’s executive order.
In a memo entitled “COVID Confusion and Mixed Messages,”
Huckleberry pointed out that the White House Coronavirus Task Force had issued a report on Sunday, Aug. 23, that recommended mitigation efforts be increased in Tucson “to decrease continued community spread’; testing efforts be scaled up, “especially in Tucson”; and bar closures should continue and gyms should not reopen in Tucson.
Huckleberry said the state’s guidance to allow businesses to reopen “directly contradicts" the guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Huckleberry also took issue with the recent CDC guidance that individuals who don’t show symptoms should not be tested for coronavirus even if they have been exposed to someone who is COVID-positive.
Earlier in the week, Huckleberry released a memo warning the fight against COVID was far from over.
“In looking at the long view over the months since the pandemic started, we are not yet seeing any significant, sustainable decline in infections or deaths,” Huckelberry wrote in an Aug. 24 memo. “This data, as reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services, will and has varied significantly from day to day. This daily fluctuation should not and cannot be interpreted as a trend.”
In order to control the virus, Huckelberry said the county needs to focus on testing, contact tracing, and surveillance testing, which involves continually retesting those who have higher risks of being exposed to COVID-19, such as healthcare workers and first responders. He suggests surveillance testing be done through antigen tests, which are less expensive and produces rapid results.
More on Huckelberry’s memo here.
UA pauses reentry plan
The University of Arizona administration last week announced a delay in their staged reopening plan.
In an Aug. 25 email to faculty, students and staff, UA Provost Liesl Folks said the administration decided to continue Stage 1 of the reopening (essential in-person classes only) during the second week of instruction, which begins Monday, Aug. 31.
Stage 2 was originally set to begin on today and would have allowed small classes to resume in person, bringing another 9,000 people to campus. But Folks said they’ve decided to hold off on Stage 2 for the time being, after consulting with local public health officials.
“Based on the test data and discussions with our campus community, we have decided to continue in Stage 1 during Week 2,” Folks said in her letter. “While nearly all the data we have today shows improving trends for limiting the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona, we feel that we should continue in Phase 1 to allow more time for public health data to be collected and analyzed before we move to instruction to Stage 2: Essential In-Person / Outdoor / Small In-Person courses.”
For more information, visit covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Get tested: Pima County has several testing centers
Pima County has three free testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—with results in 48 to 72 hours.
You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.
Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing
The centers are also tied into Pima County’s developing contact tracing operation, which aims to be able to identify potential clusters and warn people if they have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.
If you’re interested in a test to determine if you’ve already had COVID-19, the UA has expanded a free COVID-19 antibody testing program to include 15 new categories of essential workers considered at high risk for exposure. The antibody test, developed by researchers at UA Health Sciences, determines who has been exposed to and developed an immune response against COVID-19.
In addition to healthcare workers and first responders, the test program is now open to educators, childcare workers, agriculture, grocery and foodservice workers, hospitality employees, solid-waste collection workers, transportation services workers and members of the National Guard. More information and registration for the test is available at covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu.
Rent assistance available for biz closed by Ducey’s executive order
Gov. Doug Ducey's administration and the Local First Arizona Foundation will accept applications for a new grant program that aims to provide $10 million in financial assistance to small businesses across the state.
The Arizona Small Business Rent and Mortgage Relief Grant program will focus on helping local businesses that had to close their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s office is partnering with the foundation in order to facilitate the disbursements.
The grants will provide up to two months of rent or mortgage payments for small businesses headquartered in Arizona that were directly impacted by the governor’s Executive Order 2020-43, which shuttered gyms, fitness centers, bars, nightclubs, indoor movie theatres, water parks and tubing operators in response to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.
Interested individuals can fill out an application at localfirstaz.com/azsmallbizrent
—with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Tara Foulkrod