Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, Jan. 20: 262 New Deaths Pushes Total Toll Past 11,500; Nearly 5K New Cases Pushes State’s Total Past 690K; Teachers Can Get Vaccinated at UA; Hospital Pressure Remains High

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2021 at 8:49 AM

With more than 4,800 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 690,000 as of Wednesday, Jan 20, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 779 new cases today, has seen 92,519 of the state’s 690,544 confirmed cases.

A total of 11,528 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,495 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 20 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has dropped slightly in the last week but still remains far above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 19, 4,663 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 about one-tenth of the current count.

A total of 2,006 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 19 with COVID symptoms, down from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 1,050 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 19. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.

Vaccines now available at UA for teachers

The University of Arizona—one of six designated points of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Pima County—began administering vaccines to qualifying individuals Tuesday, according to UA President Dr. Robert Robbins.

“[Pima County] asked us to be a point of delivery to vaccinate not just our 15,000 family members that are on the faculty and staff at the UofA, but also all childcare providers, all K-12 educators and staff and all Pima Community College faculty and staff,” Robbins said. “For the whole county of Pima, we’re the education POD.”

This week, 1,000 Phase 1B.1 educators will receive vaccines at the campus, according to a press release from the university.

UA will work with the county health department this week to “continue to refine” its delivery process, Robbins said, and it expects to deliver 396 vaccines to K-12 education workers Tuesday through Thursday.

UA will administer 84 doses to university employees Wednesday and Thursday, Robbins said. On Friday, the university expects to be “up and running” under the county’s regular scheduling process for those who register through the county.

On Friday, 500 childcare workers and K-12 teachers will receive vaccines at UA, he said.

Pima County prioritizes who receives the vaccine, and eligible recipients must register through the county to make an appointment.

Qualified 1B educators can register online at:

UA requiring on-campus students get tested twice a week

About 3,800 UA students returned to in-person classes Wednesday during Stage 1 of the university's reentry plan.

Robbins said Stage 1 will continue through the week of Jan. 25, but it’s possible the phase of limited in-person classes could run throughout the entire semester.

“We’ve gotta see the numbers come down before we can move to Stage 2, which would be up to 50 students in a classroom.”

In attempts to control the spread of COVID-19, on-campus dorm students will take COVID-19 tests twice a week with at least 48 hours between tests.

Students will take the new PCR saline gargle test developed by Michael Worobey, the head of UA’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Those receiving the test have to swish and gargle 5 milliliters of saltwater three times, and spit the solution into a tube to be tested. At a press conference in December, Worobey said the test detects present coronavirus material and amplifies it to a traceable amount.

Worobey said he assessed the test's effectiveness by giving potentially infected persons both saline and nasal swab tests. He found the gargle swish test pulled coronavirus material out of about 30-35% more people than the nasal swab.

“I think this is going to become the new gold standard for how to test for this virus,” Worobey said.

More details here.

COVID-19 on campus

From Jan. 9 through 18, UA administered 11,713 COVID-19 tests and found 194 positive cases for a positivity rating of 1.7%.

As of Jan. 15, 28 students were in isolation dorm beds with 568 beds still available, according to Robbins.

Although positive tests have dropped since last semester, Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona called the numbers “still unacceptably high.”

While some statewide COVID-19 statistics have appeared to improve recently, Carmona warned not to become complacent.

Carmona went over data showing the 14-day change of coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Arizona. Cases declined 10%, deaths increased 119% and hospitalizations increased 8%.

“There’s a lot of data still coming in, and often, the data that we see on a daily basis isn’t reflective of what’s actually happening because it takes a while to get that data tabulated and put into the system,” Carmona said. “Although it looks like we’re doing a little bit better, we have more testing, we got some control, we’ve managed to get the university open relatively safely, our students are doing well—but we’re far from where we need to be. It’s still a long journey ahead of us.”

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