Monday, April 12, 2021
With 675 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 850,000 as of Monday, April 12, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County, which reported 105 new cases today, has seen 113,764 of the state’s 850,236 confirmed cases.
With no new deaths reported this morning, a total of 17,086 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,369 deaths in Pima County, according to the April 12 report.
A total of 552 coronavirus patients were in the hospital as of April 11. That’s roughly 11% 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 911 people visited emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on April 11. That number represents 39% 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 148 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on April 11, which roughly 12.5% 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.
Decline in COVID cases stalls
A decline in cases of COVID-19 in Arizona has stalled in the wake of Gov. Doug Ducey’s lifting of restrictions designed to slow the spread of the killer virus.
While numbers are still far lower than at the January peak in cases, the state has now seen two weeks of minor increases in cases following 10 weeks of decline, while hospital occupancy has been on a slight upswing, according to Dr. Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist and professor in the UA School of Public Health who has been tracking the novel coronavirus for more than a year.
“[O]ur three-month streak of sustained improvements has stalled owing to more transmissible variants and/or normalization of business and social activities,” Gerald wrote in his tracking report. “Nonetheless, hospital capacity remains adequate to meet Arizona’s needs even though the backlog of non-COVID care has yet to be fully addressed.”
In the week ending April 4, a total of 4,281 Arizonans tested positive for COVID, a 2 percent jump from the previous week.
Gerald noted that for the first time, the rate of cases among people older than 65 had fallen below that of children, with 28 cases per 100,000 for seniors vs. 37 cases per 100,000 among kids younger than 15.
Overall, Arizonans were testing positive at a rate of 59 cases per 100,000, which kept the state just above the threshold of “substantial” spread of the virus. People between the ages of 15 and 24 were testing positive at a rate of 95 cases per 100,000. People between the ages of 16 and 64 were testing positive at a rate of 70 cases per 100,000.
Gerald advised that people and businesses should continue to follow the advice of public health experts regarding wearing masks and other precautions, but that “normalization of low-risk activities remains reasonable.” But he said medically vulnerable people who had not yet been vaccinated should continue to avoid going out in public.
Mask mandate still on in Pima County
Arizona Health Director Cara Christ said last week that she would not move to overrule Pima County's mask mandate, which requires anyone over the age of 5 to wear a mask in public places where physical distancing is not possible unless they are exempted by a qualifying health condition.
At an April 9 press briefing, Christ said while she has the authority as the head of Arizona Department of Health, she is focusing on the vaccination efforts and didn’t think she’d use the power “at this point in the pandemic.”
After Pima County said it would keep its mask requirement in place despite Gov. Doug Ducey announcement that he was lifting other COVID restrictions and local governments could no longer enforce mask mandates.
In a March 26 letter, the Pima County Attorney’s Office advised County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry that Gov. Doug Ducey does not have the legal authority to prevent the County Health Department from enacting reasonable public health measures.
“It is up to the Legislature, not the Governor, to decide what authority it wants to delegate to counties. It has delegated counties broad public health authority, as well as authority over their own property,” wrote Deputy County Attorney Jonathan Pinkney in a legal opinion released by the Board of Supervisors on April 6. “The Governor cannot, through the exercise of his executive authority, take that away.”
After state Sens. Vince Leach (R-SaddeBrooke) and Michelle Urgenti-Rita (R-HOMETOWN) and state Rep. Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa) asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich about Pima County’s authority in the matter, Brnovich provided an informal opinion that backed Pinkey’s position, but also suggested: “the Governor likely has the authority to preempt the county resolution through ADHS rules and regulations promulgated and enforced by ADHS.”
While Ducey has not ordered Christ to overturn local mask mandates, he did sign House Bill 2270 last week, which allows businesses to ignore future mask mandates once it takes effect later this year.
Will Humble, the former director of health in the Brewer administration and the head of the Arizona Public Health Association, wrote on his blog that it was “astonishingly irresponsible to sign a bill that completely gets rid of this non-pharmaceutical intervention during an emergency and also stripping all regulations from the Administrative Code that require infection control or environmental exposure masks.”
“Of course, the ADHS under the leadership of Director Christ offered no statement or testimony in committee expressing any concern whatsoever about the bill,” Humble added. “Such is the state of the public health leadership in this state.”
Pima County transitioning to indoor vaccination sites
As temperatures rise, Pima County officials are shifting to indoor vaccination sites to avoid making staff and volunteers endure long days in triple-degree temperatures.
Pima County opens a new indoor vaccine site today at the Kino Event Center, where the county had earlier been doing COVID testing. That site is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Register at azdhs.gov.
The county has also opened an indoor vaccination POD at El Pueblo Center, 101 W. Irvington Road, which is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
The county is working with TMC to move their drive-thru POD to a walk-through site at the Udall Center at Udall Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road, beginning April 19. Appointments can be made through register.vaccine.pima.gov.
The drive-through POD at Banner-South Kino Stadium, 2500 E. Ajo Way, will offer appointments between 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning April 17.
As of Monday, April 12, XXX people in Pima County had received at least one shot of the virus, accounting for X% of the population. A total of X people were fully vaccinated.
Anyone 16 and older is now eligible for vaccination at Pima County or state PODs.
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.
Register for an appointment at a Pima County POD at 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.
Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing
Pima County is continuing to offer a number of testing centers and pop-up testing sites around town, including the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road. Schedule an appointment 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