Friday, March 5, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, March 5: Ducey order forces TUSD to start in-person classes two days earlier, March 22; More than 283K vaccine doses have been given in Pima County; Here’s how to set up vaccine appointments, COVID tests

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2021 at 10:01 AM

With 2,276 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 823,000 as of Friday, March 5, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 215 new cases today, has seen 110,287 of the state’s 823,384 confirmed cases.

With 84 new deaths reported today, a total of 16,269 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,254 deaths in Pima County, according to the March 5 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has continued to decline, with 1,043 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of March 4. That’s roughly 21% of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 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 1,116 people visited emergency rooms on March 4 with COVID symptoms. That number is roughly 48% of 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 325 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on March 3, which is roughly 27% of the record 1,183 ICU patients 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

While supplies remain limited, Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 65 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site at the University of Arizona was not accepting first-dose appointments as of Friday, March 5. While the state is now offering vaccinations to people older than 55 along with frontline workers in the Phoenix area, vaccine appointments in Pima County remain limited to those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers.

As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations at the UA vaccination site will go through ADHS’s website. When online registration resumes, you can make an appointment at at pod, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

Pima County closes Banner North vax site, moves operations to Banner South

With a reminder that yesterday marks a year since the first COVID test came back positive in Pima County and that more than 110,000 people have tested positive since then, Pima County Health Department Director Dr Theresa Cullen said in a Friday press conference she is looking to the future as they expect to hit the goal of 300,000 vaccinations before the end of March.

As of March 4, 283,011 vaccines had been administered in Pima County. Cullen said they hope to hit the 300,000 mark within the next five days.

The county continues to vaccinate those 65 and older and had almost half of that population vaccinated a few days ago. The state is asking Pima County to have 55% of people 65+ vaccinated with the first dose by March 9, which would depend on how many first appointments are opened up at the state POD, Cullen said.

Banner Health officials released a statement Wednesday stating it would consolidate its vaccination sites, closing Banner North.

Cullen said the consolidation of the sites was in the works but it was with the hope that the Kino stadium site would be able to increase appointments. The transition was based on the supply of Moderna vaccine.

The county has received 23,000 doses of Moderna which they have yet to allot and continue to have discussions with TMC, TCC and Banner to evaluate their needs, Cullen said.

“We hoped the supply chain would loosen up,” Cullen said. “We have every indication that it will by the end of this month.”

The county has also received 8,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be the only allocation for the next three to four weeks, Cullen said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be distributed to federally qualified health centers and also support the county’s pop-ups, but only in communities they had not previously vaccinated, as those who received Pfizer or Moderna will need a second shot of the same vaccine.

“We've been able to extend a hand into community and community members that we may not have touched before, that we may not have been able to develop trust with, from a community perspective,” said Cullen.

TUSD moves opening date to March 22 to comply with Ducey order

Tucson Unified School District yesterday reaffirmed their plan to open schools the week of March 22, which is in compliance with Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Order released Wednesday, said TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo.

Trujillo said they were ahead of the order, which has put them in a good spot to return their students to school and continues to make preparations to return their students, teachers, and staff to campus safely.

TUSD schools will have to reopen to in-person learning two days earlier than originally planned, on March 22 instead of March 24.

While 1 out 5 parents still need to choose their child’s learning program, over 43 percent of parents have chosen remote learning, which Trujillo said is in compliance with the executive order.

The district recently purchased $1.5 million in High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) units, which are stand-alone units that can be plugged into a wall to reduce the spread of harmful particles in the air. On March 3 they finalized the purchase of 4,000 units for every campus, said Trujillo.

Throughout the spring and early summer, they plan to retrofit older buildings with Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) rating level 13 filters, from level 8 filters, which refers to the filter's ability to capture harmful particles in the air as part of the HVAC system, said Trujillo.

On Monday, the district began distribution of over 50, 000 N95 masks. They will also be installing hands-free bottle filling stations so each school has at least one, he said.

Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing

Pima County is continuing to offer 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, Christina Duran, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen

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