Friday, March 26, 2021

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, March 26: Romero continues mask mandate despite Ducey's order; Medically compromised county residents now eligible for vax

Posted By on Fri, Mar 26, 2021 at 8:40 AM

With 571 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases passed 838,000 as of Friday, March 26, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 89 new cases today, has seen 112,134 of the state’s 838,558 confirmed cases.

With 24 new deaths reported this morning, a total of 16,898 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,341 deaths in Pima County, according to the March 25 report.

A total of 626 coronavirus patients were in the hospital as of March 25. That’s roughly 12% 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 965 people visited emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on March 25. That number represents 41% 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 165 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on March 25, which roughly 14% 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.

Romero continues mask mandate despite Ducey ending it statewide

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said Thursday she has no intention of removing the local mask mandate for the health and safety of Tucsonans.

Romero's comments at an afternoon press conference came after Gov. Doug Ducey's earlier announcement that lifted statewide COVID restrictions on businesses and gatherings and included a “phase out” of mask mandates. (Read more on Ducey’s new COVID-19 measures here.) Romero warned that Ducey’s actions will only “exacerbate community transmission, prolonging the pandemic, and delaying a full reopening of our economy” and that they have clear legal authority to continue implementing the mandate.

The City of Tucson’s mask mandate, implemented last summer, was enacted under the powers extended to the city through its governing charter, including disease prevention. The charter's Chapter VII states: “Disease prevention. To make all regulations which may be necessary or expedient for the preservation of the health and the suppression of disease; to make regulations to prevent the introduction of contagious, infectious, or other diseases into the city; to make quarantine laws and regulations and to enforce the same within the city; to regulate, control and prevent the entry within the city of persons, baggage, merchandise or other property infected with contagious disease.”

In Ducey’s announcement, he questioned the efficacy of mask mandates noted that where mandates had been in place, they "have rarely, if ever, been enforced.” Romero said that the mask mandate is enforceable, but the Tucson Police Department has been taking an “educational approach,” encouraging anyone without a mask to wear one, and people can be given written warnings for noncompliance. However, she emphasized that they will not expend resources in ticketing people and said, “this is for the benefit of the health of our community and not to ‘gotcha’ people. It is to help them comply with a public health ordinance.”

Adults older than 16 now eligible for appointments at state vaccine centers; Pima County expands eligibility to anyone with chronic medical condition

All adults older than 16 are now eligible for appointments at state vaccination PODs.

Previously, vaccines were limited to people 55 and older as well as frontline workers, educators, first responders and healthcare workers.

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said on average they have 100 to 200 unfilled appointments each day at the UA’s state POD. However, Jensen said as of Monday, March 22, only two vaccines had gone unused due to a needle drop, and if there are missed appointments, the vaccines leftover would go to volunteers at the POD.

New appointments for the UA POD will open up at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 26, said Jensen. The Arizona Department of Health Services announced last week it would begin announcing the number of appointments opening up on Fridays via a Wednesday Twitter post.

As of today, Pima County will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to anyone 55 and older and anyone older than 16 with at-risk circumstances.

Starting Thursday, March 25, anyone living with a high-risk medical condition or disability, experiencing homelessness or living in a group setting, or receiving in-home or long-term care can get the vaccine. Some of the high-risk medical conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions or compromised immunity.

Those in high-risk jobs will also be eligible.

Although the state has expanded eligibility to anyone over 16, Pima County's guidelines had to be limited, said Dr. Theresa Cullen, Health Department director.

“We realize that this is not fully aligned with what Gov. Ducey announced earlier this week; however, our decisions are based on the current vaccination rates for 55 and up (which is at 42%), as well as our commitment to ensure ongoing access to vulnerable populations,” Cullen said. “We anticipate appointments will be filled quickly and as we move these groups, we look forward to being able to align with the state's recommendations within the next six weeks.”

You can register for your vaccine appointments at a state POD by visiting pod vaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201.

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.

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

ADHS will now announce on Wednesdays via Twitter, @AZDHS, and Facebook the approximate number of first-dose appointments available. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) will release those new COVID-19 vaccination appointments every Friday.

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

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