Thursday, February 4, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Thursday, Feb. 4: Cases on Decline but Transmission Rate Remains high; More Contagious Variant ID’ed in AZ; Health Officials Warn Against Super Bowl Gatherings; Vaccine Now Available in Marana

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2021 at 8:51 AM

With 4,417 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases surpassed 771,000 as of Thursday, Feb. 4, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 736 new cases today, has seen 103,448 of the state’s 771,796 confirmed cases.

With 176 new deaths reported today, a total number of 13,752 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,868 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 4 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 3,303 in the hospital as of Feb. 3. That number peaked at 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 1,633 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 3 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 946 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 3, 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.

How to get a vaccine

Currently, Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 75 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. 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.

Health officials worry Super Bowl could be super spreader

While COVID-19 cases have declined for the second week in a row, the top clinical leader of Arizona’s largest hospital system warns the state’s medical facilities remain overloaded.

Banner Health’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said 44% of Arizona’s hospitalized patients have COVID-19 while 60% of ICU hospitalizations are for coronavirus patients.

The state’s seven-day average positivity rate for the virus is at 16%, according to Bessel. While this is lower than the peak of Arizona’s winter surge, health experts say communities should maintain a rate below 5%.

Bessel said the cause for the decline in cases is “multifactorial.” The holiday season of large gatherings is over, and the natural trends of any pandemic contain surges and declines.

But with the upcoming Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, Banner’s leader warns everyone to continue to avoid large gatherings to prevent another COVID-19 spike.

“Any gathering of individuals with whom you don't live with offers the opportunity for spread to occur. When you're with others that you don't live with, wear your mask appropriately and certainly do not go out and gather with individuals if you are not feeling well,” Bessel said. “We hope that everybody can take appropriate precautions so that we do not have another spike post this upcoming Super Bowl Sunday, like we did after Christmas, for instance.”

Banner to expand elective surgeries

On Jan. 22, Bessel announced Banner will resume some outpatient surgeries and procedures that require no more than a one-night stay and no ICU care would resume.

As of Feb. 1, Banner hospitals expanded these criteria to include all outpatient surgeries and inpatient surgeries that require no more than three nights stay in a regular inpatient bed or one night’s stay in the ICU. However, the ultimate decision to conduct a surgery will depend on conditions at each facility.

While hospitals continue to be inundated with COVID-19 patients, the backlog of delayed surgeries makes conditions even busier.

More contagious COVID-19 variant identified in Arizona

Although COVID-19 cases are declining, the emergence of the virus’ more contiguous mutations could cause a worsening spread in the future.

Coronavirus variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been discovered in the U.S. In Arizona, at least three test samples have come back positive for the presence of the UK variant, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Bessel said the vaccine may not work as well against the variants as the original coronavirus, but the current COVID-19 vaccines still provide protection.

“While research is ongoing, vaccines appear to be less effective against this variant, though still within the protective range and are highly recommended,” she said. “There's still a lot unknown about the COVID variant and what it will do to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. For this reason, we continue to stress when it's your turn to get your vaccine, please get vaccinated.”

Vaccine available now in Marana and Oro Valley area

MHC Healthcare is currently scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments for those above 75 in the Marana and Oro Valley areas.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, appointments will take place at MHC Healthcare Marana Main Health Center at 13395 N. Marana Main St.

Beginning this week, vaccinations will take place every Thursday at the James D. Kriegh Park at 23 W Calle Concordia in Oro Valley.

Appointments will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and residents of Oro Valley, Marana, Dove Mountain, Catalina, Avra Valley, Picture Rocks and Summer Haven can register at

Vaccinations at both locations will be administered in a drive-thru setting using the Moderna vaccine.

As of Monday, MHC had received 2,300 vaccines from the Pima County Health Department and administered 1,714.

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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