Monday, January 18, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Monday, Jan. 18: Pima County opens new vaccination site at Kino Stadium; Pima County on track for worst month yet; Total number of cases statewide jumps by 21K during weekend; Hospital pressure remains high

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 8:51 AM

With 5,400 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 679,000 as of Monday, Jan 18, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 681 new cases today, now has 90,765 of the state’s 679,282 confirmed cases.

A total of 11,265 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,422 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 18 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. 17, 4,752 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, or less than a tenth of the current count.

A total of 1,844 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 17 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 1,097 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 17. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.

Pima County’s dire situation was laid out by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry on Friday, Jan. 15. As of the midpoint of the month, the county had seen nearly 18,000 positive cases, putting it on track to exceed December’s record-setting total number of 29,663.

With 329 deaths in the first 15 days of January, the county is also on pace to exceed the total number of deaths in December as well, Huckelberry told Pima County supervisors in a memo ahead of Tuesday’s board meeting, where the board will also discuss his future as county administrator.

“Clearly, there has been no substantial reduction in the COVID-19 infection rate,” Huckelberry wrote.

Huckelberry said last week saw some easing of pressure in county hospitals, with a 15 percent drop in COVID patients and a total of 633 COVID patients in local hospital beds.

While the number of Intensive Care Unit beds in use had dropped by 6 percent, only 20 ICU beds, or 5 percent of total capacity, remained available as of Friday. A total of 216 COVID patients were in ICU beds (accounting for 60 percent of ICU beds). Nearly two-thirds of ventilators in use—63 percent—were by COVID patients.

Pima County rolling out vaccinations

Today, 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.

The opening of the site follows vaccination sites opening last week at Tucson Medical Center, Banner Health and Banner University Medicine North site.

Vaccinations are in limited supply and are limited to specific groups. They require registration. County officials anticipate increased vaccine doses in the coming weeks.

To register for an appointment or check your eligibility, click here.

Nearly 1 in 10 Arizonans 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 last 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 11,000 last week.

Bessel said 58% of Arizona’s hospital beds were 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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