Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Tuesday, Sept. 15: Total Cases Surpass 209K; UA Urges Students To Self-Quarantine as Campus Cases Rise; Get a Flu Shot; County Test Sites Open

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 at 9:19 AM

With 484 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases surpassed 209,000 as of Tuesday, Sept. 15, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County had seen 22,643 of the state’s 209,209 confirmed cases.

A total of 5,344 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 601 deaths in Pima County, according to the Sept. 15 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline from July peaks, but took a big jump yesterday. ADHS reported that as of Sept. 14, 550 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, an increase of 61 people from yesterday’s count of 489. The number of hospitalized COVID patients peaked at 3,517 on July 13.

A total of 811 people visited emergency rooms on Sept. 14 with COVID symptoms, the lowest that number has been since June 4, when 725 people visited emergency rooms with symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 138 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Sept. 14. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,396 cases, according to a Sept. 11 report from the Pima County Health Department. While a vocal minority continues to insist that masks do no good, the spread of the virus began to decline within weeks of Pima County’s mask mandate, as more people began wearing them in public, although the level of new cases has essentially plateaued in recent weeks rather than continuing to drop. For the week ending Aug. 22, the number of new cases dropped to 528; for the week ending Aug. 29, 514 new cases were reported; and for the week ending Sept. 5, a total of 527 cases were reported. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)

Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 55 in the week ending July 4 to 19 for the week ending Aug. 15, 13 for the week ending Aug. 22 and nine in the week ending Aug. 29. (As above, these numbers are subject to revision as recent deaths may not have been reported.)

Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 239 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals. For the week ending Aug. 29, 36 COVID patients were admitted to Pima County hospitals and in the week ending Sept. 5, 21 patients were admitted to Pima County hospitals. (Numbers are subject to revision.)

UA students asked to quarantine in their homes for two weeks

University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins and Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen yesterday announced they are recommending a 14-day quarantine for students living on and off campus within a geographical boundary they have identified as showing high transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Robbins said this is a “last ditch” effort to get students to follow public health directives before they have to take more drastic measures. Robbins gave off a frustrated tone at the press conference, saying the university is dealing with a “blatant disregard for public health measures.”

“I’m short of saying I’m mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore,” Robbins said. “This is part of being a good member of society, to take into account the health of others, not just your individual health and your individual desire to go out and party.”

Cullen said they aren’t seeing transmission as a result of classes, labs or on-campus activity, but more so off-campus social activities and parties.

The quarantine allows exceptions for students enrolled in essential in-person classes such as science labs and performance and fine arts classes. Students in the quarantine boundary are also allowed to go on essential shopping trips, appointments and work if necessary.

“There are a clear subset of individuals, primarily students, who are not following the rules,” Robbins said during a press conference. “Today, we’re going to ratchet up the warnings, the encouragement to please follow the rules.

Cullen said that by establishing a recommended two week quarantine, they will have the potential to ensure that the increased virus transmission will go back down.

Robbins said enforcement of the recommended quarantine will be difficult, but the university has established a support system to assist students during this time and he hopes they will follow this recommendation before the condition of COVID-19 spread at UA worsens.

He said the university administration anticipated this problem once students came to campus at the beginning of the semester. He hoped the university wouldn't have to institute “more draconian measures, but we're to that point.”

Robbins said the university will have to move toward an all-digital learning model if they cannot get the situation under control.

“This is it, this is your last chance,” he said.

The announcement came one day after Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik warned that the off-campus private residential towers near Speedway and Park Avenue are a breeding ground for COVID.

The Ward 6 Democrat said that testing had shown that in HUB Tucson, 45 of 490 residents had tested positive for COVID, some of whom had tested negative through the UA’s rapid-result antigen test.

“With 490 residents living in a confined congregate setting, the likelihood is the virus is already spreading throughout the building at an alarming pace,” Kozachik warned.

Pima County will be closing the swimming pools at the residential towers, according to Kozachik, who added that common areas in the buildings will also be closed.

Get a Flu Shot

Gov. Doug Ducey and public health experts are asking Arizonans to get a flu shot to help keep hospital capacity low and available for those with COVID.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is implementing an aggressive plan of action during this flu season by distributing the vaccination for free to all Arizonans through doctor’s offices, pharmacies, local health departments and community healthcare centers statewide.

Ducey said the overlap with COVID produces greater challenges than a typical flu season and preventing the flu is more important than ever. More than 4,000 people were hospitalized with flu symptoms in Arizona last year and roughly 700 people die from the illness each year, according to the governor.

The state will reimburse Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System providers offering free flu shots to AHCCCS members, while giving AHCCCS members a $10 gift card for their troubles after they've been vaccinated.

Get tested: Pima County has several testing centers, UA offering antibody testing

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.

Meanwhile, the FDA has approved the University of Arizona’s antibody test. As a result, the testing has now been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill.

To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen

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