Monday, January 18, 2021
Halfway through January, Pima County is already on track to exceed the total COVID-19 case and death count of December.
With 17,932 cases reported Jan. 1-15, the first month of 2021 will likely exceed the 29,663 coronavirus cases reported in December, according to a memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
The first two weeks of January also tallied 329 deaths—also on pace to exceed December’s total, the memo said.
Arizona continues to have the highest coronavirus transmission rate in the nation with an average of 117 cases per 100,000 of the population, according to the CDC.
“Arizona’s outbreak remains appallingly bad. A bit of good fortune (or preferably policy action) is needed to gain additional time to vaccinate Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens,” according to the most recent report by Dr. Joe Gerald, a UA professor who creates weekly coronavirus epidemiology reports based on Arizona Department of Health Services data. “Daily cases and fatalities could double, or perhaps quadruple, before declining under the weight of natural and/or vaccine-induced immunity later this winter.”
During the week ending Jan. 10, 8,274 Pima County residents were diagnosed with COVID-19, creating a new record for weekly case counts in the county and representing an 11% increase from the week prior, according to Gerald's report.
According to Gerald, throughout Arizona, the week ending Jan. 10 saw 60,283 new COVID-19 cases, a 7% increase from the week prior.
While the week of Dec. 20 still remains the state’s deadliest with 759 COVID-19 deaths, Gerald estimates this record will be broken in coming weeks as coronavirus deaths are on pace to exceed 700 a week “for the foreseeable future.”
Gerald reported that coronavirus test positivity declined 2% the week ending Jan. 10 from the previous week throughout Arizona.
“This indicates that viral transmission is now growing slower than testing capacity is increasing. Nevertheless, testing capacity remains woefully inadequate to the scale of the problem,” he wrote.
As of Jan. 15, 56% of the state’s general ward hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, a 1% decrease from the week prior.
“Arizona has seen the first, albeit small, week-over-week decline in COVID-19 patients and percent occupancy in several months,” Gerald said in the report. “While still incredibly high, the change is welcomed.”
ICU bed usage by coronavirus patients increased 2% from the week prior with 64% of beds holding COVID-19 patients.
Gerald said hospitals' slight COVID-19 occupancy decrease shows “some moderation of demand for COVID-19 care,” but the numbers shouldn't be taken at face value when considering the ongoing constraints hospitals experience daily.
He wrote, “Even if this moderation persists, hospitals will remain dangerously overcrowded for the foreseeable future compromising access to care for COVID-19 and non-COVID patients alike.”