Friday, January 15, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, Jan. 15: Pima County Vaccination Appointments Fill up in Two Hours; 11K+ New Cases Pushes AZ Past 658K; Death Toll Tops 11K; Hospitals Warn They Remain on Edge as Pressure Grows

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 8:56 AM

With more than 11,000 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 658,000 as of Friday, Jan 15, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 1,342 new cases today, has seen 87,687 of the state’s 658,186 confirmed cases.

A total of 11,040 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,393 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 15 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide dropped slightly in recent days but still remains far above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 14, 4,866 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, a slight drop from Wednesday’s 5,055. 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, or less than a tenth of the current count.

A total of 2,120 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 14 with COVID symptoms, down from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29. That number had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 1,138 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 14. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.

A website that tracks COVID infections across the globe reports that Arizona continues to have a COVID transmission rate far above the United States as a whole.

The website, which uses data from Johns Hopkins University, reports that Arizona is seeing 126.5 infections per 100,000 people on a seven-day average, compared to 72.7 infections per 100,000 for the United States as a whole.

Pima County vaccination appointments fill up in two hours

Registration opened for priority groups in phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts yesterday, but according to the Pima County Health Department, all available appointments aimed at the 75+ population at the two Banner-operated vaccination sites and Tucson Medical Center were “accounted for through the registration process,” according to a press release from the health department.

More than 20,000 residents registered for appointments within the first two hours of the registration website’s opening, the release said.

The health department recognized this is “causing frustration” for those still trying to receive appointments through the county’s registration website, but said more appointments will be made available as it receives more allocated vaccine doses from the state.

“We know there is a great deal of anxiety in members of the public about COVID-19 and interest in getting the vaccine to protect themselves from contracting it,” Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia and Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen wrote in a joint statement. “But there will be more than 400,000 people in the 1B priority group once 65 and older people are added in. It will take several months to vaccinate all the people in this group.”

Although appointments at the Banner sites and TMC have been accounted for, individuals 75 and older, prioritized essential workers and educators can register for a vaccine at or by calling 520-594-5684.

The 75+ population is encouraged to register at TMC, Banner University Medicine North or Banner’s site at the Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Education and childcare providers should register through the University of Arizona’s vaccination center, while protective service workers will primarily receive vaccines at the Tucson Convention Center. According to the county, both centers are set to open for vaccinations next week.

Tucson Medical Center will begin administering vaccines by appointment to those who registered today.

Also today, the Banner University Medicine North site is scheduled to begin giving vaccines to registrants.

On Monday, the county will open a vaccine site at the Kino Sports Complex. Vaccine administration, operated by Banner University Medicine, will take place in a drive-thru at the parking lot to the south of the stadium. The site is expected to provide 1,600 vaccinations per day, according to the county.

“We hope to have our vaccine allotment from the state increased in the coming weeks,” Garcia and Cullen said in the release. “In the meantime, we ask for patience as we move forward with this enormous effort to protect everyone in Pima County from this terrible disease."

More details here.

Nearly 1 in 10 Arizonans is now battling COVID-19

Leaders from five Arizona hospital systems provided distressing news on the continuously worsening presence of COVID-19 in the state at a press briefing this week.

For weeks, Arizona has topped the charts for the highest coronavirus infection rate in the nation. Chief Clinical Officer of Banner Health Dr. Marjorie Bessel said nearly 1 in 10 Arizonans is currently battling COVID-19.

The state’s total number of deaths surpassed 10,000 this week.

Bessel said 58% of Arizona’s hospital beds are holding COVID-19 patients, a percentage that’s even higher in its ICUs.

If the virus continues spreading at its current pace, Dr. Alyssa Chapital, Hospital Medical Director at Mayo Clinic warned the state will meet the dire point where the needs of the community surpass hospitals’ resources—the most critical being hospital staff.

If hospitals run out of these resources, they would triage care, meaning each patient is evaluated on the necessity of their care compared to others and resources are allocated to those most in need of them.

Frey said the state’s hospitals agreed no one hospital would activate triage based on the Arizona Crisis Standards of Care plan unless they all reached the point of critical resource shortage needed to do so.

“We have educated our staff about it, but it is our sincere hope that Arizonans can help slow the spread of this virus to avoid a triage situation,” Chapital said.

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

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 Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen

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