Monday, February 1, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Monday, Feb. 1: Pima County Has Delivered More Than 112K Vaccine Doses to Residents; Fewer Patients in Hospitals but Numbers Remain High; Variant Strains Raising Worries

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2021 at 9:53 AM

With nearly 14,000 new cases reported since Friday, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases surpassed 762,000 as of Monday, Feb. 1, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 504 new cases today, has seen 101,961 of the state’s 762,145 confirmed cases.

A total of 13,124 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,740 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 1 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks after peaking at 5,082 on Jan. 11 but remains above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 31, 3,654 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 1,481 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 31 with COVID symptoms, down from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had peaked during the summer wave at 2,008 on July 7, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.

A total of 984 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 31, down from a peak of 1,183 set on Jan. 11. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22, 2020.

Pima County passes 100K vaccination threshold

Pima County has passed the paradoxical intersection of administering more than 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines after surpassing 100,000 coronavirus cases Friday.

As of Sunday, Jan. 31, the county administered 112,692 vaccine doses and reported 101,961 coronavirus cases Monday, according to Arizona Department of Health Services data.

“Our vaccination plan was really designed to increase early impact through accelerated immunization,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the county’s public health director. “The good news is I think we are starting to see that acceleration, and hopefully, we will soon start to see the impact of that on our community in terms of morbidity and mortality.”

The population currently eligible to receive vaccines are those over 75, educators, childcare providers and protective service workers—a group Cullen estimates to be around 150,000 individuals.

According to the public health director, the county is administering about 35,000 doses a week, which puts them on track to administer 140,000 vaccines by the second week of February.

However, with second doses of either the Pfizer of Moderna vaccine needed for one to be considered fully immunized, Cullen said this doesn’t mean the current 1B priority group in Pima County’s vaccine rollout will be done so soon.

“One would think in four weeks we'd be done, right? Because not everybody's going to get the vaccine. Remember, people are getting two vaccines. So once we throw that second vaccine in there, the numbers become a little extended in terms of how long it takes,” she said.

The next eligible group will be the 65+ population, which Cullen estimates is a group of more than 200,000 residents. Although the current priority group still needs to receive second doses, the 65 and over crowd could be eligible sooner than expected.

“The question everybody wants is when are we going to flip the switch? I would reassure you that we're in the process of doing some calculations, and some of it is related to that second shot,” Cullen said. “But it'll definitely be sometime in February, maybe the end of February. We thought maybe the middle of March—I think it will be earlier if our vaccine distribution holds.”

Vaccine allocation is more dire in presence of COVID-19 mutations

Maricopa County has two 24-hour state-run PODs: one at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale that opened on Jan. 11 and a second one at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium that opened on Monday.

The state’s ordered the 24-hour PODs 140,400 vaccine doses, and they administered 107,496 shots as of Sunday, according to ADHS data.

The state has allocated Pima County 140,425 doses, only 25 more than the state-run PODs.

“To me, that is a really important statistic because it speaks to the fact that we need to have more vaccine on the ground here if we are going to continue to make good progress,” County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said. “Right now, our PODs are firing on all engines, it isn't always pretty and it's not always perfect, but we're actually doing a pretty darn good job of getting vaccine administered into the right people's arms.”

With the arrival of mutations of COVID-19 in the United States, the acceleration of vaccine distribution is becoming even more crucial.

The variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil are more contagious than the original coronavirus and have been identified in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The UK variant has been identified in Arizona after at least three test samples came back positive for it, the ADHS announced Friday.

The CDC says while studies are still underway, they suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines will defend against the mutations.

“The quicker we can immunize if there does happen to be variation in the genetic sequencing of the virus, the more likely we are to have people protected. Now, even if there’s not genetic changes, the more likely we are to stop the pandemic,” Cullen said.

“It's why acceleration becomes a critical component of the impact of immunization. At the same time I say that, it's difficult because I'm asking people to be patient. We don't have enough vaccine right now to go any quicker than we are.”

Those who currently qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at or by calling 520-222-0119.

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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