Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Tuesday, Dec. 1: More Than 10K New Cases Today; Total Cases in AZ Top 337K; Tucson City Council To Vote on an 8 p.m. Curfew Today; UA Team Warns of Impending Hospital Crisis

With more than more than 10,000 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 337,000 as of Tuesday, Dec. 1, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 994 new cases today, has seen 40,803 of the state’s 337,139 confirmed cases.

ADHS Director Cara Christ said the large number of cases was a result of flow processing of tests over the holiday weekend.

“Most days, local health agencies review and classify newly reported cases (identifying them as confirmed, probable, or not a case),” Christ said in a prepared statement. “They will follow up with healthcare providers and laboratories if there are any questions about details on a case, which may take additional time over the holidays. The confirmed and probable cases identified are then reported out on our dashboard the next day as the number of new cases. With the long weekend, classification was delayed for a large portion of cases, resulting in much higher numbers than usual.”

With 48 new deaths reported yesterday, a total of 6,687 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 695 deaths in Pima County, according to the Dec. 1 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide continues to climb upward as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly, putting stress on Arizona’s hospitals. ADHS reported that as of Nov. 30, 2,594 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since July 26. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13; it hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27.

A total of 1,545 people visited emergency rooms on Nov. 30 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

click to enlarge The number of COVID patients in ICU continues to grow. - ADHS
ADHS
The number of COVID patients in ICU continues to grow.

A total of 597 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Nov. 30, the highest that number has been since Aug. 4. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13 and hit a subsequent low of 114 on Sept. 22.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,452 cases, according to an Nov. 25 report from the Pima County Health Department. (Numbers in this report are subject to revision.)

Pima County is seeing a dramatic rise in cases in recent weeks. For the week ending Oct. 31, 1,348 cases were reported; for the week ending Nov. 7, 2,119 cases were reported; and for the week ending Nov. 14, 2,578 cases were reported; for the week ending Nov. 21, 3,313 cases were reported.

COVID-related deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 but are on the rise. There were three deaths in the week ending Oct 10, one in week ending Oct. 17, six in the week ending Oct. 24; 10 in the week ending Oct. 31 and five in the week ending Nov. 7.

Hospitalization admission peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but those numbers have been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Oct. 31, 66 people were admitted; in the week ending Nov. 7, 90 people were admitted; in the week ending Nov. 14, 127 people were admitted; and in the week ending Nov. 21, 139 people were admitted.

Tucson City Council to vote on 8 p.m. curfew tonight

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero has called a special City Council meeting tonight to ask them to approve a mandatory curfew as the spread of coronavirus reaches alarming levels county and statewide, she announced in a press conference today.

Romero says she’ll be asking the council to consider implementing a mandatory curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. that would run from Dec. 1 to Dec. 22.

On Nov. 23, the Pima County Health Department announced a voluntary overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day until Dec. 31—but it’s not enforceable.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Romero will ask the city’s council members to vote on the mandatory curfew, which if approved, would go into effect three hours later.

The proposed curfew would prohibit everyone from being in public places with the following exceptions:

  • Emergency response personnel

  • Traveling to and from work

  • Attending religious services

  • Caring for a family member

  • Seeking medical care

  • Fleeing dangerous circumstances

  • Traveling to perform or receive essential functions

  • Homeless

“We are hoping that this particular measure will help our community, will help slow the surge of cases and preserve precious hospital capacity,” Romero said at the press conference. “We are also hoping that this curfew, that this step, will help prevent a stay-at-home order or a lockdown.”

More details here.

UA COVID modeling team: More steps needed to prepare for impending hospital crisis

Experts from the COVID-19 modeling team at the University of Arizona are calling for a shelter-in-place order, mask mandate and emergency economic relief measures statewide as coronavirus metrics increase to alarming levels.

“No matter what actions are taken, Arizona will experience a hospital crisis in the coming weeks. However, if action is not immediately taken, then it risks a catastrophe on a scale of the worst natural disaster the state has ever experienced,” UA’s COVID-19 modeling team wrote in a memo to the Arizona Department of Health Services. “It would be akin to facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders.”

Dr. Joe Gerald, a professor at UA who creates weekly coronavirus epidemiology reports based on ADHS data, also called for further COVID-19 mitigation tactics as his latest report shows an alarming spread of the virus throughout the state.

“Arizona is experiencing a public health crisis where access to critical care services is limited due to shortages of space, personnel, and critical supplies. If not addressed within the next 2-3 weeks, this crisis will evolve into a humanitarian crisis leading to hundreds of preventable deaths,” Gerald wrote in his latest report. “At this point, only shelter-in-place restrictions are certain to quickly and sufficiently curtail viral transmission.”

According to Gerald's latest update, Arizona likely passed concerning thresholds of 30,000 COVID-19 cases per week and 4,000 cases per day this week.

His report says Arizona's COVID-19 test positivity reached 17% the past week, providing “additional evidence that viral transmission continues to increase despite the uncertainty surrounding actual case counts.”

On Friday, Nov. 27, 28% of hospital ward beds were filled by COVID-19 patients, a 24% increase from the week prior. Of the state’s ICU beds, 32% were occupied by coronavirus patients, a 27% increase from last week, according to Gerald’s report.

Members of the COVID-19 modeling team at UA said Arizona State University’s COVID-19 projections predict by early December, hospitalizations will exceed current ICU and general ward capacity throughout the state.

By late December, the ASU COVID-19 modeling team predicts hospitalizations will exceed their total capacity, causing “no additional availability to provide care for routine, urgent, or emergent non-COVID care,” according to the UA modeling team’s memo.

Gerald wrote in his report that if total hospital capacity is reached, “it would represent a humanitarian crisis of unparalleled proportion and would be accompanied by hundreds if not thousands of preventable deaths.”

More details here.

Get tested: Pima County offers free COVID testing

Pima County offers a number of testing centers around town.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center (2805 E. Ajo Way) the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road) and downtown (88 E. Broadway).

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

In addition, the Pima County Health Department, Pima Community College and Arizona State University have partnered to create new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites at three Pima Community College locations. At the drive-thru sites, COVID-19 testing will be offered through spit samples instead of nasal canal swabs. Each site will conduct testing from 9 a.m. to noon, and registration is required in advance. Only patients 5 years or older can be tested.

Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill. To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen