Tuesday, December 29, 2020
With more than 2,700 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 507,000 as of Tuesday, Dec. 29, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County, which reported 1,313 new cases today, has seen 67,679 of the state’s 507,222 confirmed cases.
A total of 8,640 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,023 deaths in Pima County, according to the Dec. 29 report.
The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide continues to soar as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly, putting stress on Arizona’s hospitals and surpassing July peaks. ADHS reported that as of Dec. 28, a record 4,475 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. The summer peak of 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients was set on July 13; that number hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27.
A total of 2,117 people visited emergency rooms on Dec. 28 with COVID symptoms. That number, which hit a new record of 2,166 earlier this month, had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.
A total of 1,053 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Dec. 28, breaking the 1,000 threshold for the first time. The summer’s record number of patients was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.
Healthcare system continues to buckle under strain
The Pima County Health Department shared a number of sobering statistics about COVID-19 yesterday:
• There is an all-time high of 1,512 medical/surgical beds in use in Pima County.
• Med/Surg bed availability hit an all-time low with 2%, or just 33 beds available in the county.
• On Monday morning there were 96 patients waiting for an inpatient bed, 62 of whom were COVID-19 patients.
• There are 669 hospital patients who are COVID positive.
• ICU beds usage hit an all-time high with 364 ICU beds in use, 198 are COVID-19 patients, the most ever. Despite an increase of 20 ICU beds in the past week, only 2% (9 beds) remain available. Hospitals continue to implement their surge plans to add ICU capacity.
• COVID-19 patients account for 54% of ICU bed and ventilator usage.
• There was a record high of 27 COVID-19 ICU admissions in a single day in the past 24 hours.
• On Christmas Day, County hospitals reported 19 COVID-19 deaths.
Last week, the Pima County Health Department warned that the healthcare system is in danger of becoming overwhelmed within the next two to three weeks if the spread of COVID-19 continues at its current pace.
The advisory asks for continued adherence to the county’s mandatory mask mandate and 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.
It also asks to limit all gatherings to less than 10 people and that all businesses reduce their occupancy to 25%.
Emergency departments and hospitals face staff and critical supply shortages.
The health department is asking residents to stay home and minimize activities that involve contact with people outside of their households, stay physically distanced and practice mask-wearing and frequent sanitization.
“This isn’t just about COVID anymore and whether you think it’s a real problem or not. The patients filling these hospitals are absolutely real and if you have a heart attack, or if you get into a car accident, or your appendix bursts, there is a real possibility that you may not get the timely care you need to save your life if we don’t get control of this virus,” said Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen, who herself tested positive for COVID this month. “People are dying yet many of those deaths are preventable if the people of this community stay home, wear their masks and avoid people they don’t live with as much as possible.”
Pima County under curfew
Pima County's remains under a mandatory 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in an attempt to combat Southern Arizona's rising number of coronavirus cases.
Penalties for a nonessential business found violating curfew range from having their business permit suspended or revoked.
The mandatory curfew will stay in place until coronavirus infection rates drop below 100 per 100,000 people, according to county officials.
The transmission rate in Pima County was 357 people per 100,000 people in the two-week period ending Nov. 29, but Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen expects that number to be significantly higher for the period ending Dec. 13.
The mandatory curfew comes as through the first two weeks of December, COVID-19 cases in the county reached 13,589—2,554 more cases than reported in all of November. Last week saw 70 coronavirus deaths, according to a memorandum from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
While businesses will now face losing their operating permits if they don't comply with the curfew, it "carries no penalty associated with the individual, as it would be difficult to enforce a curfew against individuals without the cooperation of law enforcement," Huckelberry writes in the memo.
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