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Arizona adds 1,507 COVID-19 cases, no deaths as hospital metrics continue steady improvements

Alison Steinbach
Arizona Republic

Arizona reported a relative low 1,507 new COVID-19 cases and no new known deaths Monday as hospitalizations for the disease approach six weeks of declining numbers.

Arizona's seven-day new-case average ranked 18th on Sunday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker.

The state's rate of new positive cases over the past seven days was 21.3 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. New York City was first with 50.3 cases per 100,000. The U.S. average for new cases was 19.9 cases per 100,000 people. 

The state's average daily COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people over the past seven days ranked sixth in the nation as of Sunday, per the CDC

Arizona's known COVID-19 death count was at 15,502 Monday,three deaths below Sunday's count because of death certificate matching. Few new deaths are typically reported on Mondays. The state surpassed 15,000 deaths on Feb. 17 after passing 14,000 deaths on Feb. 6 and 13,000 deaths on Jan. 29, just one week after it passed 12,000 and two weeks after 11,000 deaths. The state exceeded 10,000 known deaths on Jan. 9. Arizona's first known death from the disease occurred in mid-March.

Many of the deaths occurred days or weeks prior, due to reporting delays and death certificate matching.

In slightly over one year since the first case was announced in Arizona, a total of 809,474 COVID-19 cases have been identified across the state. February has seen relatively lower case reports. 

The Arizona data dashboard shows 85% of all ICU beds and 87% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use Sunday, with 27% of ICU beds and 19% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 259 ICU beds and 1,119 non-ICU beds were available.

Hospitalizations for the disease have been dropping for about six weeks but remain at relatively high levels. 

The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 1,590 on Sunday, similar to Saturday's 1,598 inpatients and far below the record 5,082 inpatients on Jan. 11. By comparison, the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer surge was 3,517 on July 13.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona was at 478 on Sunday, down from 501 on Saturday and below the record high of 1,183 on Jan. 11. During the summer surge in mid-July, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.

Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators tallied 299 on Sunday, up slightly from 286 on Saturday and well below the record high 821 reached on Jan. 13. During the summer surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use, with 687 patients.

Sunday saw 1,117 patients in the emergency room for COVID-19, below the Dec. 29 single-day record of 2,341 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency departments across the state.

Percent positivity, which refers to the percent of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, has been declining but remains above the ideal.

Last week, Arizona's percent positivity remained at 9% for the second week in a row, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity. Percent positivity was between 4% and 6% for much of August, September and October, according to state data.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona's seven-day moving average of percent positives at 5% as of Monday. It shows the state's percent positivity peaked at 24.2% in December.

A positivity rate of 5% or less is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.

Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for Phase 1A the week of Dec. 14, but the process has moved slowly because of limited vaccine supply. Registration is open in counties for priority or all Phase 1B individuals and in most places for those 65 and older. Gov. Doug Ducey said the vaccine will be free for anyone.

More than 1 million people statewide had received at least one vaccine dose as of Monday, with about 398,900 people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses, state data show. 

What to know about Monday's numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 809,474.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 1,507, or 0.19%, from Sunday's 807,967 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services, not by the date the tests were administered. 

Cases by county: 506,046 in Maricopa, 108,479 in Pima, 45,535 in Pinal, 36,310 in Yuma, 20,931 in Mohave, 16,923 in Yavapai, 16,281 in Coconino, 15,477 in Navajo, 11,053 in Cochise, 10,281 in Apache, 7,611 in Santa Cruz, 6,354 in Gila, 5,262 in Graham, 2,379 in La Paz and 552 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Yuma County, followed by Apache, Santa Cruz, Navajo and Graham counties, per state data. The rate in Yuma County is 15,790 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began was 8,398 cases per 100,000 people as of Sunday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 29,535 cases and 1,144 confirmed deaths in total as of Sunday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal leaders halted weekend lockdowns after Jan. 25, although a stay-at-home order and nightly curfew remained in effect. 

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 11,895 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, including 2,236 in Tucson, 2,005 in Yuma, 1,974 in Eyman, 1,307 in Lewis and 1,155 in Douglas; 43,595 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,649 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Thirty-five incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 17 additional deaths under investigation.

Race/ethnicity is unknown for 18% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but 37% of people are white, 30% are Hispanic or Latino, 5% are Native American, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, 16% were younger than 20, 44% were 20-44, 15% were 45-54, 12% were 55-64 and 13% were over age 65.

Laboratories have completed 3,703,153 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19, 14.6% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests had increased since mid-May but began decreasing in July and held steady around 4% for several weeks, per the state. It was at 9% for the last full week. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The Arizona Department of Health Services includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine current infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) are a newer type of COVID-19 diagnostic test that uses a nasal swab or another fluid sample to test for current infection. Results are typically produced within 15 minutes. 

A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there's an increased chance of false-negative results, the Mayo Clinic says. Depending on the situation, Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result. 

Arizona as of Sunday had the sixth-highest overall case rate in the country since Jan. 21, 2020. Ahead of Arizona in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began are North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah and Tennessee, according to the CDC.

Arizona's infection rate is 11,076 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 8,398 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early on in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April. 

Reported deaths in Arizona: 15,502

Deaths by county: 8,833 in Maricopa, 2,149 in Pima, 770 in Yuma, 742 in Pinal, 625 in Mohave, 478 in Navajo, 448 in Yavapai, 365 in Apache, 307 in Coconino, 262 in Cochise, 209 in Gila, 166 in Santa Cruz, 71 in Graham, 69 in La Paz and eight in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older made up 11,623 of the 15,502 deaths, or 75%. Following that, 14% of deaths were in the 55-64 age group, 6% were 45-54 and 4% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity was unknown for 7% of deaths, 49% of those who died were white, 29% were Hispanic or Latino, 8% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data show.

The global death toll as of Monday morning was 2,469,417, and the U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 499,128, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona's death total of 15,502 deaths represents 3.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of Monday. 

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began was 212 per 100,000 people as of Sunday, according to the CDC, putting it sixth in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average was 149 deaths per 100,000 people as of Sunday, the CDC said.

New York City had the highest death rate, at 343 deaths per 100,000 people. After that followed New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Mississippi.

Reach the reporter at Alison.Steinbach@arizonarepublic.com or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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