Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, Oct. 21: Nearly 1K New Cases Today; Four COVID Cases in Amphi Schools; Total AZ Cases Close in on 234K; Free Testing Available

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2020 at 9:06 AM

With 975 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 234,000 as of Wednesday, Oct. 21, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had seen 27,128 of the state’s 233,912 confirmed cases.

With 17 new deaths yesterday, a total of 5,854 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 635 deaths in Pima County, according to the Oct. 21 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases has declined from July peaks but has ticked upward in recent weeks. ADHS reported that as of Oct. 20, 832 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since Aug. 26, when 895 people were hospitalized. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13.

A total of 853 people visited emergency rooms on Oct. 20 with COVID symptoms, the highest that number has been since Sept. 21, when 867 people visited ERs with signs of the coronavirus. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 171 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Oct. 20. 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 2,453 cases, according to an Oct. 16 report from the Pima County Health Department.

After a bump following the return of UA students, cases on a week-to-week basis are on the decline. For the week ending Sept. 19, 1,225 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 26, 596 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 3, 523 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 10, 466 cases were reported.

Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 to 10 in the week ending Sept. 5, one in the week ending Sept. 12, three in the week ending Sept. 19, four in the week ending Sept. 26 and three in the week ending Oct. 3.

Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but it has been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Sept. 12, 24 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 19, 17 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 26, 13 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 3, 20 patients were admitted; and in the week ending Oct. 10, 24 people were admitted. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)

Amphi reports four coronavirus cases in its schools

In its second week of reopening, the Amphitheater Unified School District has reported four positive coronavirus cases resulting in 31 students and staff members quarantining, Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela said in an email Tuesday.

Amphitheater reopened for in-person classes in a hybrid model on Oct. 12, and its latest positive COVID-19 case was reported today, Oct. 20.

Today, one student at La Cima Middle School reported a positive coronavirus test. Although no close contacts to the person were discovered inside the school, three La Clima students who were with the student over the weekend are quarantining for 14 days.

One student at Canyon del Oro High School reported a positive test Monday, causing 13 students who may have been in contact with the person to self-quarantine.

Last week, 13 students and one staff member at Ironwood Ridge High School had to quarantine after a student reported a positive test on Oct. 16.

At Mesa Verde Elementary, one staff member reported a positive case on Oct. 14, but no other employees or students were identified as close contacts to require quarantining.

The 10,100 Amphitheater students who opted for hybrid classes attend two days a week and spend the other three learning remotely. About 1,400 students chose to continue attending school completely online.

UA increases number of in-person classes as campus-area cases remain low

The University of Arizona will allow more students to return to campus this week as metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus remain low, UA President Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference Monday, Oct. 19.

Continuing phase two of its reopening plan, the university will allow classes of 50 or fewer to return the week of Oct. 26, raising last week’s maximum of 30 students.

From Oct. 8-17, UA found 44 positive coronavirus cases after administering 6,867 tests for a positivity rate of 0.6%, the same rate the university reported last week.

“We have five weeks before the break. I’m very proud of the way the university has risen to the challenge so far, but we cannot become complacent,” Robbins said.

With fall break approaching Nov. 26, UA is taking proactive measures to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 as students travel outside the area.

On Nov. 6, the university will begin a “testing blitz” by appointment only. Students who plan to travel over break and have not received a positive coronavirus test over the past 90 days are “strongly encouraged” to get tested.

All main campus students are required to take a coronavirus antigen test and complete a survey with their fall break traveling plans. Those who travel outside the Tucson area over break are encouraged to complete the semester remotely, according to Robbins.

However, UA students won’t get a similar week off in the spring. Instead of spring break, the university will have five separate “reading days” with no classes held.

“It’s a traumatic step to say we’re not going to have spring break next year, but it’s a really important step,” UA Provost Liesl Folks said. “The CDC is unambiguous about the fact that travel is one of the core ways that we spread the virus around the country.”

Get tested: Pima County opens new downtown testing center, UA offering antibody testing

The Pima County Health Department opened a new COVID-19 testing site downtown last Friday, Oct. 16, at 88 E. Broadway Blvd., on the southwest corner of Broadway and Sixth Ave. Testing will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Testing is available without an appointment, or by appointment at

With workday testing available around lunch time, the county health department hopes this new site will serve as a resource for downtown employees. As with other county testing locations, the tests will be conducted by Paradigm Laboratories, and results will be available online in 72 hours or less.

“Quick and accessible testing is a key factor in helping businesses protect their employees and patrons as the pandemic continues,” said PCHD director Dr. Theresa Cullen in a press release. “We want to do all that we can to support businesses as they get back on their feet.”

The county has three other free testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—with results in 24 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

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.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a 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

—with additional reporting from Nicole Ludden, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen

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