Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Tuesday, March 16: Cases continue downward trend; Pima County hits 2,300 deaths; UK, Brazilian variants are in AZ; Supplies remain limited but here’s how to set up vaccine appointments, COVID tests

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2021 at 9:46 AM

With 497 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 834,000 as of Tuesday, March 16, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 56 new cases today, has seen 111,400 of the state’s 833,878 confirmed cases.

With 21 new deaths reported this morning, a total of 16,574 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,304 deaths in Pima County, according to the March 15 report.

A total of 743 coronavirus patients were in the hospital as of March 15. That’s roughly 15% 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 837 people visited emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms ron March 15. That number represents 36% 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 206 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on March 15, which is roughly 17% 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.

UA expects to expand class offerings in two weeks

The University of Arizona will move to Stage 3 during the week of March 29, allowing in-person classes and flex in-person classes of up to 100 students, UA President Dr. Robert C Robbins announced yesterday.

On Feb 22, the university moved to Stage 2, offering in-person learning to courses with 50 or fewer students. They will continue in Stage 2 for the next two weeks.

On campus, the rate of positivity remains low, with fewer than .2 percent of the more than 13,000 tests in the past 10 days.

In Pima County on the week of Feb. 21, the rate of positivity dropped to 5.3%, nearing the goal of 5% for classification of minimal transmission. For the same week, the county had 78 cases of COVID per 100,000 residents, while 3% of reported hospital visits were for COVID-like illnesses.

While these metrics continue to decline, a total of 39 cases of the UK variant had appeared in Arizona as of yesterday. On March 12, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the Yuma County Public Health Services District and Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) reported three cases of the Brazilian variant (P.1.).

Last week, Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said four cases of the COVID-19 UK variant have been found in Pima County.

According to the CDC, this variant, first detected in the U.S. in late December 2020, spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. Some experts in the U.K. reported the variant may be associated with an increased risk in death, but this finding has not been confirmed.

“It's not to make the community frightened, but it is to remind the community that COVID-19 is a deadly disease,” said Cullen. “It has significant morbidity and mortality and the way we protect ourselves right now is to do the three W's, to abide by the recommendations that we've given.”

Robbins said with the help of their expert team, they feel confident that it’s safe to move forward.

“Despite the variance, the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 continue to be low, particularly on the campus,” said Robbins. “There's not been any major outbreaks on the campus throughout over a year of this.”

Robbins adds that they feel especially confident as vaccination efforts increase.

A total of 226,020 Pima County residents have received at least one vaccine shot and 154,913 residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Between the state POD, the county PODs and private pharmacies, the county is now receiving between 40,000 and 50,000 doses a week, according to Pima County spokesman Mark Evans.

Cases continue decline

Arizona has seen eight straight weeks of decline in COVID cases through the week ending March 7, which saw 5,721 new confirmed COVID cases. That was a 17% drop from the previous week, according to Dr. Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Gerald, who has been tracking the spread of the virus with weekly reports for a year, said the state had moved from high risk to substantial risk and the number of patients in the hospital was low enough to meet the state’s needs. New cases had fallen to 79 per 100,000 residents and PCR testing had dropped to 9%, putting it in the 5% to 10% zone for “optimal public health practice,” according to Gerald.

Gerald said those with high risk for COVID complications, such as the elderly or those with preexisting conditions, should continue to stay home as much as possible until they are fully vaccinated. Everyone else should continue wearing masks, washing their hands and keeping six feet of distance from people outside their household.

How to get a vaccine

To find out if you are eligible for a vaccine, visit the Arizona Department of Health website.

Pima County is providing vaccination appointments to people 55 and older as well as frontline workers, educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site at the University of Arizona accepts registration and appointments at pod vaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

Many local pharmacies are now receiving vaccine doses. To find one near you, visit the ADHS website.

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) and the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road).

The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

Schedule an appointment at these or other drive-thru or pop-up sites at pima.gov/covid19testing.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing can determine if you have had COVID and now have antibodies. To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Austin Counts, Christina Duran, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen