Thursday, November 19, 2020

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Thursday, Nov. 19: More than 4,100 New Cases; State Cases Show 'concerning increase'; Banner Reinstates No-Visitor Policy; Federal Prison a 'Hot Spot'

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 9:23 AM

New cases jumped to 4,123, which brought the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases to more than 287,000 as of Thursday, Nov. 19, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 601 new cases today, has seen 34,423 of the state’s 287,225 confirmed cases.

With 19 new deaths reported today, a total of 6,384 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 674 deaths in Pima County, according to the Nov. 19 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide continues to climb as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly. ADHS reported that as of Nov. 18, 1,796 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since Aug. 8. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13; it hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27. 

A total of 1,414 people visited emergency rooms on Nov. 18 with COVID symptoms, the highest that number has been since July 18. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 433 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Nov. 18, the highest that number has been since Aug. 14. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13 and hit a subsequent low of 114 on Sept. 22.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,452 cases, according to an Nov. 12 report from the Pima County Health Department. (Numbers in this report are subject to revision.)

Pima County is seeing a steady rise in cases in recent weeks. For the week ending Oct. 17, 547 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 24, 914 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 31, 1,304 cases were reported; and for the week ending Nov. 7, 1,948 cases were reported.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry noted that the county had seen 4,620 cases in the first 17 days in November.

“For the first 17 days in July, the worst month of COVID-19 case increases to date, there were 5,057 cases,” Huckleberry said in a Nov. 17 memo. “Therefore, we are on pace to exceed the total number of monthly COVID-19 infections in our previous worst month, July.”

COVID-related deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 but are on the rise. There were three deaths in the week ending Oct 10, one in week ending Oct. 17, five in the week ending Oct. 24 and nine in the week ending Oct. 31. 

Hospitalization admission peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but those numbers have been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Oct. 17, 35 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 24, 41 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 31, 53 people were admitted; and in the week ending Nov. 7, 61 people were admitted.


Ducey, Christ: State coronavirus cases showing 'concerning increase'

In the first media conference from the governor’s office in two weeks, Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ provided a COVID-19 update today as the pervasiveness of the virus grows daily.

Christ said throughout the state there’s been a “concerning increase” in coronavirus cases, percent positivity and COVID-19 patients in ICU and inpatient hospital beds.

According to Christ, each of Arizona’s 15 counties has a COVID-19 case rate above 100 per 100,000 people, which also indicates substantial spread of the virus.

COVID-19-like illnesses are also increasing visits to emergency rooms and hospitals, Christ said.

The public health director implored mask wearing for all Arizonans “in every setting.”


Banner Health reinstates no visitor policy as COVID surges

As Arizona continues on track for its worst month of COVID spread, Banner Health reinstated its no-visitor policy at all Banner – University Medicine locations in Tucson, effective 6 p.m. today. According to Banner, this visitor ban to reduce COVID spread includes outpatient and ambulatory locations, such as clinics, urgent care locations, imaging centers, surgery centers and occupational health services locations.

There are four exceptions to the visitor restrictions:

  • Pediatric patients (under the age of 18) may have one guardian or support individual with them.
  • Laboring mothers may have one support person with them.
  • Persons with disabilities who, due to the specifics of the disability, require assistance from someone in order to effectively participate in the healthcare process will be allowed to designate a support person to accompany them while in any Banner facility.
  • End of life visitations will be accommodated.

Federal prison is a “hot spot” for COVID cases

However, the memo says there are specific "hot spots" contributing to the surge in cases, including a case outbreak at the federal prison at 8901 S. Wilmot Road. Nearly 500 infections were found in a facility with 1,600 detainees and 600 employees. 

“The initial cases were identified quickly, and the institution implemented an aggressive program of inmate testing, case identification, and isolation and quarantine to mitigate the risk of spread,” Huckelberry said in the memo.

On-site medical services for inmates are “limited to outpatient acute care” from a team of four nurse practitioners or mid-level providers, 12 supporting nursing and paramedics and a medical director from inside the facility, according to the memo.

About 24 detainees had to leave the prison facility for hospital care, and the memo says “even fewer required inpatient care at local hospitals, principally TMC.”


Get tested: Pima County opening new sites alongside existing spots for free COVID testing

New drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites are opening at three Pima Community College locations, the county health department announced in a press release Friday. 

The Pima County Health Department, Pima Community College and Arizona State University have partnered to create three new testing sites in an extension of the current ASU testing site at the Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center. 

At the drive-thru sites, COVID-19 testing will be offered through spit samples instead of nasal canal swabs. 

Each site will conduct testing from 9 a.m. to noon, and registration is required in advance. Only patients 5 years or older can be tested. 

“As cases rise, we are eager to increase available testing for the people of Pima County,” Pima County Public Health Director Theresa Cullen said in the press release. “If you know or suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, we encourage you to get tested.”

Here are the three drive-thru locations that will be offering COVID-19 testing:

Pima Community College West Campus 

  • 2202 W. Anklam Road
  • Mondays, except national holidays and Dec. 28
  • Testing started: Monday, Nov. 16, 2020

Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus 

  • 5901 S. Calle Santa Cruz
  • Wednesdays, except national holidays and Dec. 30
  • Testing starts: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020

Pima Community College East Campus 

  • 8181 E. Irvington Road
  • Fridays, except national holidays.
  • Testing starts: Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

The new sites will join the county’s other four free testing centers around town.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center (2805 E. Ajo Way) the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road) and downtown (88 E. Broadway). 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 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