Friday, January 7, 2022
Thanks to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, Arizona reported one of its highest single-day COVID-19 case totals on Friday, Jan. 7, with 14,888 new COVID-19 cases across the state.
That’s the second-highest number of single-day cases reported since the pandemic began, exceeded only by the 17,234 on Jan. 3, 2021.
Here in Pima County, there were 1,701 new COVID-19 cases in Pima County on Jan. 7, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. By comparison, the single highest day in Pima County in November was 792 cases.
Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said this week that the county’s “epi curve”—the visual graphing of cases per day—continues to climb.
“What we need is that curve to go down,” she saidCullen said the next several weeks will be crucial and she hopes to see the curve go down later in January.
Genetic sequencing of COVID cases in Pima County during December revealed that Omicron was only 7.8% of cases. However, Cullen said that county health officials “did see a significant increase in Omicron for the days of 12/19 to 1/1 and about 40% of what was sequenced from the county was Omicron.”
Thus far, health officials say the Omicron variant is highly transmissible but causes less severe illness, especially among the vaccinated, and fewer hospitalizations.
“Our new hospital admissions seem to be stabilizing, though our ICU beds continue to be strained and constrained, the same as for our adult medical surgical beds,” Dr. Cullen said.
Pediatric hospital beds are available for use and Dr. Cullen reported that hospitals are seeing more pediatric hospitalizations for seasonal illnesses like RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza than COVID.
Although health officials say hospital admissions have stabilized, the healthcare system in Arizona is being pushed to its limit.
Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said Banner hospitals in Arizona, including Banner University Medical Center, were operating at 100% capacity in late December.
“COVID patients account for 40% of our ICU patients,” Bessel said. “Nearly 90% of those COVID ICU patients are unvaccinated. Half of our patients on ventilators are COVID positive.”
Bessel asked the public to consider wearing a mask, vaccination and a booster shot if they are eligible to lessen the burden on healthcare workers.
Due to a staffing shortage, Northwest Healthcare recently asked ambulances to divert cardiac patients from Oro Valley Hospital to other hospitals, including Northwest Medical Center.
“Like many hospitals across the country, staffing at Oro Valley Hospital remains incredibly tight as our caregivers work together to navigate this most recent COVID surge,” said Veronica Apodaca, director of marketing at Northwest Healthcare. “Because we want to make sure patients get the right level of care, we openly communicate with our EMS partners when our capabilities change. At this time, we are unable to provide 24/7 call coverage in the Cath Lab at Oro Valley Hospital, so we have asked our EMS partners to temporarily transport cardiac patients to facilities with a higher level of care, including Northwest Medical Center.
However, Oro Valley Hospital will take cardiac and other patients that arrive at the emergency room other than by ambulance, according to Apodaca. Oro Valley Hospital could resume accepting cardiac patients by ambulance as soon as next week.
In other COVID news this week:
• A new report published by the Arizona Department of Health Services shows vaccinated Arizonans are less likely to test positive for COVID-19 and are at less risk of succumbing to severe symptoms. In November, unvaccinated Arizonans were 4.9 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and were 31.1 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
Pfizer released data in early December showing a booster shot can help neutralize the omicron variant.
People are eligible to receive a booster shot if they completed a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination series at least six months prior.
• Following approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, Pima County is now offering Pfizer booster shots to ages 12 and up. The Pfizer vaccine is the only shot approved for those younger than 18.
Two dose COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer and Moderna are available at county sites, along with the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster two months after receiving the shot. All of these vaccines and the Pfizer booster shots are available for free at these locations:
Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.
Abrams Public Health Center, 3950 S. County Club Road.
Theresa Lee Health Center, 1493 W. Commerce Court
North Clinic, 3550 N. First Ave.
Check hours of operation at the county website at pima.gov/covid19vaccines.
• As of Friday, Jan. 7, a total of 24,616 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 3,216 in Pima County, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.