Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Monday, June 8: Confirmed Cases Top 27K; 1,047 Now Dead from Virus; AHDS Admits To Screwing Up Coronavirus Hospital Numbers

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona surpassed 27,000 as of Monday, June 8, with another 789 new cases reported this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had 3,154 of the state's 27,678 confirmed cases.

A total of 1,047 people have died after contracting the virus, including 205 in Pima County, according to the report.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 14,003.

Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.

Following the end of Gov. Doug Ducey's stay-at-home order on May 15, Arizona hospitals are seeing a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, 1,266 Arizonans were hospitalized. There are 390 COVID patients in ICU units and 815 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 7, according to the report.
Banner Health's chief clinical officer Marjorie Bessel hosted a special briefing about the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID hospitalizations in Arizona on Friday, June 5. Bessel warned that if current trends continue, Banner will soon need to exercise its surge plan to increase ICU capacity.

Bessel highlighted a steep increase of COVID-19 patients on ventilators: On June 4, Banner’s Arizona hospitals had 116 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, up from roughly 15 a month prior.

Banner officials urge everyone to exercise behaviors that are proven to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask when you’re in public near others, staying six feet away from others, and avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people.

Data from the Centers For Disease Control indicate that the five days with the largest increases in new COVID cases in Arizona all came after Ducey's stay-at-home order expired on May 15.

At a June 4 press conference, Ducey said he and Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ anticipated the current increase in positive COVID-19 cases because testing has “dramatically increased” within the state.

Christ downplayed the alarm about the recent increase in cases, which some have attributed to the end of the stay-at-home order on May 15, saying “as people come back together, we know there will be transmissions of COVID-19.”

While they admitted new cases are to be expected when people begin to interact again, Ducey and Christ said their main focus was to ensure that hospitals had the capacity for an increase in cases. They reported that the current use of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators were all within capacity last week.

“The fact that we were going to focus on having more tests means we were going to have more cases,” Ducey said. “We anticipated that. What we wanted to do was to be prepared for this.”

Meanwhile, Christ revealed this weekend that the state had been miscalculating the percentage of available bed space in hospitals by counting potential "surge beds" that could be brought into use as already filled. Christ said the error had been caught and would not be repeated moving forward.

Kathleen Kunz and Jeff Gardner contributed to this report.