With 1,284 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 820,000 as of Wednesday, March 3, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County, which reported 257 new cases today, has seen 109,941 of the state’s 819,954 confirmed cases.
With 29 new deaths reported today, a total of 16,089 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,233 deaths in Pima County, according to the March 3 report.
The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has continued to decline, with 1,165 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of March 2. That’s less than a fourth 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 1,087 people visited emergency rooms on March 2 with COVID symptoms, representing about 46 percent 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 381 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on March 2, less than a third of the record 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
While supplies remain limited, 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 was not accepting first-dose appointments as of Tuesday, March 2. While the state is now offering vaccinations to people older than 55 along with frontline workers in the Phoenix area, vaccine appointments in Pima County remain limited to those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers.
“As more vaccine reaches Arizona, we will continue refining our plan to maximize the benefits of this still-limited resource,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ. “Moving to a hybrid approach will allow us to rapidly and efficiently administer the vaccine and provide all Arizonans with a clearer estimate of when they will be eligible to be vaccinated.”
As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations at the UA vaccination site will go through ADHS’s website. When online registration resumes, you can make an appointment at pod vaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.
Eight CVS pharmacies throughout Arizona began offering COVID-19 vaccines starting last week.
Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS Customer Service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided. Per the state of Arizona, eligible individuals for the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are people age 65 and over, health care workers, protective services, teachers and childcare providers.
As more supply becomes available, the company will expand vaccine access through an increasing number of store locations and in more Arizona counties.
Funding for COVID-19 Testing Remains Unresolved
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote on ending COVID-testing on March 16, whether or not they receive a response from the state on funding.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting said he would, with the support from the board, send another letter to the state to appeal once more on funding.
Huckelberry noted the county has not received a promised $7.1 million for vaccination programs or $14.3 million for testing.
The state allocated $14.3 million to Pima County from $100 million in funds on Feb 19. The amount is calculated on a baseline of $100,000 for the state, broken down by population.
As requested by the state. The Pima County Health Department submitted a proposal to the Arizona Department of Health Services requesting $40.3 million for COVID-19 testing with supporting documentation.
The data submitted with the request focuses on tests conducted from Dec 21, 2020, the date the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) of 2021 passed, allocating about $416 million to Arizona. Huckelberry said the county should receive a portion of that to reimburse the cost of the testing program.
“I think the county has done the responsible thing, which is to respond to the public health agency and provide necessary testing and including now accelerated vaccination,” said Huckelberry.
Huckelberry references an article from Capitol Media Services Howard Fisher, where Dr. Cara Christ said the funds cannot be used for reimbursement.
Huckelberry said the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act is “quite expansive with respect to what is reimbursable,” quoting that the law designates additional resources as intended to “prevent, prepare for and respond to Coronavirus by supporting testing, case investigation and contact tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation.”
While Huckelberry is certain they will be reimbursed for testing costs run up after Dec. 31, he is uncertain whether they would be reimbursed for $3.5 million in expenses between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31, as the CRRSA was not signed into law by the President until Dec 27. The lack of funding would mean reducing testing as early as the second week of March, said Huckelberry in a memo.
“It is the wrong time to scale back testing, but we also face fiscal reality,” Huckelberry said.
Pop-up vax clinic for vulnerable populations
This past weekend, Pima County Health Department, in collaboration with local churches and other organizations, offered three pop-up clinics to vaccinate those in most vulnerable communities which have been underserved, said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry in a memo.
These communities were identified by examining the Center for Disease Control Social Vulnerability Index by census tract data related to age, income, and race/ethnicity. Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said they then overlay immunization rates on it to find those most vulnerable and underserved communities.
The Pima County Health Department identified those communities and worked with community organizations that invited them in. The vaccinations were conducted at South Tucson Housing Authority, Greyhound Park, Christ Community Church and Rising Baptist Church, Huckelberry said.
A total of 1,743 vaccinations were delivered. The Housing Authority delivered 72 vaccines. Seven out of 10 were delivered to people over 65, 70% were Hispanic, and 8% were Black. At Greyhound Park, 492 vaccinations were delivered, with almost half going to people over 65, 68% Hispanic, and 3% Black. Christ Community Church delivered 387 vaccines; 82% percent were over 65, but had the lowest percent of Hispanic and African American served at 15% and 4% respectively. Rising Star Baptist Church delivered 792 vaccines, 43% of which went to people over 65, 35% to Hispanic residents, and 34% to Black residents.
In the hopes of increasing the vaccinations of those in disadvantaged communities, the county has indicated “plus one” individuals be vaccinated as well, said Huckelberry . These individuals are those identified as caregivers.
The location of these pop-up clinics were purposefully not released to the public, said Cullen last week, as they have often found that people who are not part of the community get vaccinated at these mobile sites.
Cullen said they hope to be able to use 10% of the vaccine distribution for these mobile clinics.
“I think you're gonna hopefully see a lot more distribution of the vaccine to the rural and the vulnerable populations as we have more vaccine available,” said Cullen.
Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing
After the state agreed to provide additional funding to keep testing centers open through at least March 2, Pima County is continuing to offer 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, Christina Duran, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen