Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Thursday, Feb. 18: MHC Healthcare cuts off appointments for Marana, Oro Valley area; Vaccine supplies remain limited but 65+ now eligible; How to sign up for vaccine, COVID test

With 1,143 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 802,000 as of Thursday, Feb. 18, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 181 new cases today, has seen 107,582 of the state’s 802,198 confirmed cases.

With 213 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,276 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,119 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 18 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,823 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 17. That’s fewer than half 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 1,272 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 17 with COVID symptoms, down from 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 566 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 17, down from a peak of 1,183 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.

How to get a vaccine

Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 65 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site opening at the University of Arizona begins appointments Thursday. The new site will follow the state’s current vaccine eligibility, which includes those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers, according to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.

As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations will go through ADHS’s website. Online registration will be available at podvaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

Reduction in hours and vaccine supply at Pima County’s PODs

The Tucson Convention Center is reducing its vaccination hours one hour a day, operating 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m., while the Tucson Medical Center is only providing first-dose appointments to those 75 and older, according to a press release from the county.

The two Banner sites are consolidating their operations on March 4, so both the Banner North and Banner South sites will operate at the Kino Sports Complex. As a result, Banner North has stopped making new appointments.

Other vaccination sites at community health centers will also curtail vaccinations and will focus on delivering second doses only.

Cullen is hopeful that a national increase in vaccine supply and the potential for the approval of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will go before the FDA for emergency use authorization on Feb. 26.

“We are getting reports daily that vaccine production is being ramped up nationally and increased supply is on the way. Plus, the approval of a new single-dose vaccine is imminent,” Cullen said. “So I expect these difficulties will be short-term and we’ll be able to rev-up our Accelerated Plan soon and get people protected from this terrible disease.”

MCH Healthcare cutting back on vaccinations in Marana, Oro Valley area

As Pima County struggles with a reduced vaccine supply this week, MHC Healthcare is one of the community health centers cutting back on vaccines as the county rations which vaccination centers receive a supply.

While MHC Healthcare previously scheduled appointments for the 70+ population in the Marana and Oro Valley areas, all online registrations are now booked and the center is only supplying second doses for those who already received their first COVID-19 vaccine, according to Director of Marketing and Communications Kimberly Mayfield.

MHC has received 4,200 total doses and administered 3,823 as of Feb. 15. Of the delivered doses, 2,819 went to those 70 and older, while 1,004 went to MHC healthcare workers. The community health center is using the Moderna vaccine.

Last week, the county's vaccine supply was decreased to 17,850—a 40% reduction from the previous week. This week, the doses were cut down to 16,300 doses of Moderna.

The state is now taking control of all Pfizer allocations, and according to County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen, the county has no insight into what the Pfizer allotment for this week was.

In addition to the 16,300 Moderna and an unknown number of Pfizer doses to be distributed across the county’s vaccination centers, the state allocated the new UA state-run POD 2,000 doses of Moderna.

According to Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia, the significant decrease in the county’s vaccine allocation cut off additional vaccine supply to its community health centers.

“One of the things, for instance, that was impacted was none of our federally qualified health center partners, Marana, Desert Senita, United Community Health Center in the rural areas and El Rio in the central core—none of them got new vaccine for new vaccinations,” Garica said. “That was a trade-off that we had to make because of the reduction in the total number of vaccines that we were allowed to allocate.”

While the community health centers aren’t receiving new doses, Garcia said the county is providing the second doses needed for one to receive complete immunization.

“All our second doses are being provided for, are being planned for. Those are not at all threatened. What worries me is the first dose,” he said. “Given that the amount of stock that we get is finite, what it means is that there may be fewer first dose appointments until the vaccine availability loosens up.”

Winter storms delaying delivery of vaccine doses

Severe winter weather across the nation is causing delays to vaccine shipments and some appointments may be delayed as a result, said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the top clinical leader of Arizona’s largest hospital system.

Of the 15 counties in Arizona, the delays are affecting Pima County the most. While Bessel said there’s enough vaccine for appointments at Banner Health locations for Wednesday and Thursday, appointments for Friday and during the weekend are at-risk without more supply.

“The severe weather that many parts of the country are currently experiencing is impacting vaccine supplies over the next several days. We continue to work with all of our different states and counties to load balance those vaccines and supplies to best meet the needs of communities,” Bessel said. “In Pima County is where we have the most significant impact regarding potential need for additional vaccine.”

Pima County announced Friday that its two Banner vaccination sites are consolidating their operations beginning March 4. The Banner North and Banner South sites will operate at the Kino Sports Complex. Banner North has stopped making new appointments.

Bessel said those with vaccine appointments at a Banner location could receive a text, email or phone call saying their vaccine time needs to be rescheduled.

She emphasized that Banner has no control over the arrival of the supplies as weather delays affect the delivery of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as the needles and syringes needed to administer them.

“The shortages that we are experiencing are beyond Banner. It's beyond the counties where Banner has direct delivery of vaccine through our PODs and our clinic, and it's beyond the state. The weather is significantly impacting things, even more so than just the continued limited supply of vaccine and the supplies that go along with vaccine. Over the next couple of days, we expect to continue to be managing very tightly, almost on a day-by-day basis because of the weather and the difficulty of getting supplies and vaccine to us. We do expect that of course to improve over the next couple of days.” More details here.

Get tested: Pima County has 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 these or other pop-up sites 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