Friday, December 11, 2020
With more than nearly 7,000 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 394,000 as of Friday, Dec. 11, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County, which reported 866 new cases today, has seen 49,637 of the state’s 394,512 confirmed cases.
With 91 new deaths reported today, a total of 7,245 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 776 deaths in Pima County, according to the Dec. 11 report.
The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide continues to soar upward as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly, putting stress on Arizona’s hospitals and closing in on numbers not seen since July peaks. ADHS reported that as of Dec. 10, 3,482 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since July 14. That’s close to the peak of 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13; that number hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27.
A total of 2,120 people visited emergency rooms on Dec. 10 with COVID symptoms. That number, which hit a new record yesterday, had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.
A total of 809 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Dec. 10, the highest that number has been since July 26. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13 and hit a subsequent low of 114 on Sept. 22.
Pima County has seen a dramatic rise in cases in recent weeks, according to an Dec. 4 report from the Pima County Health Department. (Numbers in this report are subject to revision.) For the week ending Nov. 7, 2,119 cases were reported; for the week ending Nov. 14, 2,578 cases were reported; and for the week ending Nov. 21, 3,313 cases were reported, setting a new record for a weekly count.
“In the last week, we've had the most cases we've reported in a week,” Dr. Theresa Cullen, the director of the Pima County Health Department. “We've had the most cases we've ever reported in a day. And as you can see, this number is significantly more than what we had in the summer when we were worried. That's why we need to worry more and more.”
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 six in the week ending Oct. 24; 10 in the week ending Oct. 31 and five in the week ending Nov. 7.
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 Nov. 7, 90 people were admitted; in the week ending Nov. 14, 127 people were admitted; and in the week ending Nov. 21, 139 people were admitted.
TMC nurses plead with public to take more precautions as hospitals approach capacity
Nurses from Tucson Medical Center are imploring the public this week to help slow surging COVID-19 rates as hospitals approach capacity, compromising the ability to treat patients.
Pima County alone has reported 7,711 coronavirus cases in the first nine days of December. Hospital admissions are rising to higher levels than during the summer surge.
Along with a letter from its nurses, TMC is launching a campaign titled “#InThisTogether,” asking the public to adhere to safety measures while spotlighting care providers in a social media campaign.
“We’ve been here for you when you need us the most for more than 75 years. Now, we need you. We work day in and day out caring for our community, then we go home to care for our own families, scared we might bring the virus home and worried about what the future will bring,” the letter said. “We’ve held the hands of patients because their families can’t. We’ve watched as cases soar, as schools close and as the hospital nears or reaches capacity almost daily. Yet, we keep going."
The nurses acknowledged that following coronavirus safety protocols can be tiresome, but as workers on the frontline of the pandemic, they’re experiencing much more dire consequences.
“We are tired, too. We are tired of seeing young people, our elders and everyone in between on ventilators. We are tired of watching people we know get sick from this virus,” the letter said. “Our co-workers are getting sick and we are short-staffed. It is becoming more difficult to transfer patients who have critical needs to hospitals that have ICU capacity for greater levels of care.”
According to the letter, TMC has activated surge plans to expand COVID-19 bed capacity while recruiting healthcare workers to care for an increasing number of patients.
The letter said the upcoming weeks are critical to slow the spread and give hospitals a chance to catch up.
“Our community has done so much, but now is not the time to give up. We are spending our holidays caring for sick patients. We are asking you, our beloved community, to think about your loved ones and make a few more sacrifices.
“Please heed the advice of public health experts by washing your hands, wearing your mask in public and staying home with your families. Please stop socializing in person with multiple households for a while.”
The letter from nurse managers Judy Rich, Mimi Coomler and Joy Upshaw pleads with the public to continue following safety guidelines in a joint effort between healthcare staff and the community they care for.
“We need our community to rally behind us. We need support and encouragement. We need each other. We are in this together, and we will get through this together.”
Curfew in City of Tucson continues
A curfew in the city of Tucson from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. continues through Dec. 23.
On Nov. 23, the Pima County Health Department announced a voluntary overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day until Dec. 31—but it’s not enforceable.
As part of the amended curfew agreement among the city’s council members, if Pima County changes their voluntary curfew time, Tucson’s curfew time will follow suit.
The curfew prohibits everyone from being in public places with the following exceptions:
• Emergency response personnel
• Traveling to and from work
• Attending religious services
• Caring for a family member
• Seeking medical care
• Fleeing dangerous circumstances
• Traveling to perform or receive essential functions
• Homeless persons
City Attorney Mike Rankin specified traveling to essential businesses such as grocery, home goods and hardware stores is allowed. Travel to restaurants for consumption off-premises is also allowed by means of take out, delivery, curbside and drive-thru food orders.
“The curfew does not order the closure of any business at any particular time, instead, what it does is it regulates when people can be in public places, which includes traveling on the public streets,” Rankin said at last week’s council’s meeting. “It does not, as presented, prevent people from traveling to or from any essential activity or essential functions, even during the curfew hours.”
Offenders of the curfew will be subject to a civil infraction that holds a fine of up to $300.
Pima County issues new health alert
The Pima County Health Department distributed a mass alert Wednesday informing the public of its renewed public health advisory as COVID-19 cases reach alarming levels.
The message was sent to those who signed up for emergency alertsand revealed coronavirus transmission rates are “extremely high” and that local hospitals have reached or are nearing capacity, according to a news release from the health department.
In the message, the health department echoed the COVID-19 mitigation guidelines strengthened by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 4. These include the continuation of the county’s mask mandate and tougher enforcement for those who don’t comply.
Other guidelines designed to slow the spread of the virus include:
• Staying at home as much as possible.
• Maintaining a 6-foot distance from those not in your immediate household.
• Frequent hand washing and sanitization.
• Limiting public and private gatherings of individuals from separate households.
Vaccine on the way
Arizona is on track to receive 383,750 COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December, according to a news release from Gov. Doug Ducey’s office.
Over the weekend, the Arizona Department of Health Services ordered the first shipment, which is expected to arrive next week, according to the release.
The vaccines will go to Pima and Maricopa counties in the first week of distribution, with Pima receiving 11,000 doses and Maricopa receiving 47,000.
The state’s distribution plan for the vaccines prioritizes health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, educators and vulnerable populations. The federal government ships COVID-19 vaccines based on states’ populations, and the release says “ADHS will promptly order vaccine doses” as they become available.
In the second week, vaccines will be distributed to all 15 counties and four tribes, according to the release.
More details here.
Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing
Pima County offers a number of 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.
In addition, the Pima County Health Department, Pima Community College and Arizona State University have partnered to create new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites at three Pima Community College locations. 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.
Schedule an appointment at these or other pop-up sites at pima.gov/covid19testing.
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 https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.
—with additional reporting from Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen