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Arizona COVID-19 update: State reports about 2,400 new cases and 38 new known deaths

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 10/15/2021 Alison Steinbach, Arizona Republic
The vaccination event and health fair took place at the Chicanos Por La Causa office in Maryvale from Oct. 7 through Oct. 9. © Raphael Romero Ruiz The vaccination event and health fair took place at the Chicanos Por La Causa office in Maryvale from Oct. 7 through Oct. 9.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arizona are gradually dropping but are still relatively high, with Arizonans continuing to get infected, hospitalized and die from the disease.

On Friday, the state reported 2,399 new COVID-19 cases and 38 new known deaths. 

Hospitalizations have been at high levels in recent weeks, but have declined slightly over the past couple of weeks. There were 1,663 patients hospitalized across Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 on Thursday, the lowest since mid-August. 

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Nearly 18% of reported COVID-19 cases in Arizona in September were breakthrough infections among people fully vaccinated, according to state health officials, who say the vaccine remains the best way to prevent severe illness and death. Still the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are in people not fully vaccinated.

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As of Oct. 4, preliminary data showed there had been 238 known breakthrough deaths in the state, officials said.

Previous days this week saw the following new case reports: 2,358 on Oct. 9; 2,182 on Oct. 10; 1,760 on Oct. 11; 2,029 on Oct. 12; 2,319 on Oct. 13; and 2,386 on Oct. 14. 

Death reports for the past week were: 31 on Oct. 9; 32 on Oct. 10; zero on Oct. 11; 71 on Oct. 12; minus six on Oct. 13; and six on Oct. 14. 

The Arizona Republic generally recaps the state's daily numbers online in a COVID-19 updates blog and in a weekly recap story online on Thursdays or Fridays and in the newspaper on Sundays.

Arizona's seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 24th Thursday among all states and territories after ranking first and second for much of January and then lower since, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 Data Tracker.

Arizona's seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 51st among 60 states and territories on March 28, but its rank has fluctuated. Last week, it ranked 20th.

The state's seven-day average for new reported COVID-19 cases was at 2,205 on Friday, compared with 2,405 one week earlier and 2,622 two weeks ago. The average had reached as high as 9,800 in January, according to state data.

Arizona's seven-day death rate per 100,000 people ranked 26th in the nation out of all states and territories as of Thursday, according to the CDC.

Percent positivity, which refers to the percentage of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, varies somewhat based on how it's measured. It's been higher in recent weeks, a sign of more community spread.

For most of May and June, Arizona's percent positivity for COVID-19 testing was at 4-5%, before rising over the course of July and August. It was 10% for the week of Sept. 5, 9% for the week of Sept. 12, 9% for the week of Sept. 19, 9% for the week of Sept. 26 and 9% for the week of Oct. 3. It’s at 10% so far for the week of Oct. 10. The percentages are now for all diagnostic tests conducted, rather than for unique individuals tested, following a change to the state dashboard.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona's seven-day moving average of percent positives at 8.2% as of Friday. 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 disease's spread is under control.

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The state's overall COVID-19 death and case rates since Jan. 21, 2020, still remain among the worst in the country.

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began is 280 deaths per 100,000 people as of Thursday, 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 is 216 deaths per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC.

New York City has the highest death rate, at 409 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Mississippi, New Jersey, Alabama and Louisiana.

Arizona's case rate per 100,000 people since the pandemic began ranked 16th nationwide as of Thursday.

Arizona's known COVID-19 death count was at 20,491 after 38 new known deaths were reported on Friday.

The state surpassed 20,000 deaths on Oct. 1 after passing 19,000 deaths on Aug. 31, 18,000 deaths on July 6,  17,000 deaths on April 7, 16,000 deaths on March 2, 15,000 deaths on Feb. 17, 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 2020.

Many of the reported deaths occurred days or weeks prior because of reporting delays and death certificate matching.

A total of 1,129,494 COVID-19 cases have been identified across the state. March, April, May and June saw relatively lower case reports.

Hospitalizations gradually dropping

The Arizona data dashboard shows 92% of all ICU beds and 92% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use on Thursday, with 26% of ICU beds and 19% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 146 ICU beds and 705 non-ICU beds were available.

The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 1,663 on Thursday, continuing a drop and then plateau from the recent peak. Last week that number was at 1,770 and two weeks ago was at 1,756. The record was 5,082 inpatients on Jan. 11. The highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer 2020 surge was 3,517 on July 13.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona has been dropping gradually and was at 466 on Thursday, compared with 473 a week earlier, still far below the record high of 1,183 on Jan. 11. During the summer surge in mid-July 2020, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.

Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators tallied 245 on Thursday, another drop from recent weeks. The record-high 821 was reached on Jan. 13. During the summer 2020 surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use, with 687 patients.

Wednesday saw 1,385 patients in Arizona emergency rooms 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.

Vaccination update

Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers, long-term care facilities and front-line first responders in mid-December. The state shifted largely to an age-based rollout in early March and in late March began allowing anyone 16 and older to start registering for appointments. Arizonans ages 12 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and older.

The state reported close to 4.2 million people in Arizona — about 58.1% of the total state population — had received at least one vaccine dose as of Friday, with more than 3.6 million residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state’s data dashboard now separates out doses administered to Arizona residents versus all doses administered in the state.

Arizona's rate of fully vaccinated people out of the total population is 52%, which is behind the national rate of 56.7%, according to the CDC as of Thursday. 

Out of the total population that's eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, those ages 12 and older, 61% of those eligible in Arizona are fully vaccinated compared with 66.4% at the national level, CDC data shows.

What to know about Friday's numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 1,129,494.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 2,399, or 0.21%, from Thursday's 1,127,095 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the state health department, not by the date the tests were administered.

Cases by county: 717,366 in Maricopa, 139,324 in Pima, 71,224 in Pinal, 41,147 in Yuma, 32,406 in Mohave, 27,209 in Yavapai, 22,208 in Coconino, 20,447 in Navajo, 15,120 in Cochise, 13,462 in Apache, 9,297 in Gila, 8,902 in Santa Cruz, 7,254 in Graham, 3,099 in La Paz and 1,029 in Greenlee, according to state numbers. 

The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Graham County, followed by Apache, Navajo, Yuma and Santa Cruz counties, per state data. The rate in Graham County is 18,853 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 13,439 cases per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 34,670 cases and 1,464 confirmed deaths in total as of Thursday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 12,398 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 2,244 in Tucson, 2,034 in Eyman, 2,011 in Yuma, 1,307 in Lewis and 1,163 in Douglas; 50,459 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 3,063 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Fifty-six incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with five additional deaths under investigation.

Race/ethnicity is unknown for 17% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but of positive cases, the breakdown is 39% white, 29% Hispanic or Latino, 5% Native American, 4% Black and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, 19% were younger than 20, 43% were 20-44, 14% were 45-54, 11% were 55-64 and 12% were age 65 or older.

Laboratories had completed 13,189,256 total diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as of Friday, 9.7% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. For most of May and the first part of June, Arizona’s percent positivity was at 4-5% before rising again in late June, according to the state. Percent positivity is at 10% so far for the week of Oct. 10. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The state Health Department includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) use 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 said. Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result.

Arizona as of Thursday had the 16th-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 Tennessee, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Alabama, Alaska, Utah, Louisiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma, according to the CDC.

Arizona's infection rate is 15,452 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 13,439 cases per 100,000 people, although the rates in states hard hit early in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April 2020.

Reported deaths in Arizona: 20,491

Deaths by county: 11,816 in Maricopa, 2,664 in Pima, 1,051 in Pinal, 956 in Mohave, 897 in Yuma, 665 in Yavapai, 609 in Navajo, 482 in Apache, 353 in Coconino, 331 in Cochise, 248 in Gila, 193 in Santa Cruz, 113 in Graham, 97 in La Paz and 16 in Greenlee.

People age 65 and older make up 14,803 of the 20,491 deaths or 72%. About 15% of deaths were among people 55-64 years old, 7% were 45-54 and 5% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity was unknown for 6% of deaths, 51% of those who died were white, 28% were Hispanic or Latino, 8% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data shows.

The global death toll as of Friday was 4,886,244. The U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 722,513, followed by Brazil at 602,099 and India at 451,814, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Arizona's 20,491 deaths represent about 2.8% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

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

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona COVID-19 update: State reports about 2,400 new cases and 38 new known deaths

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