Arizona reports record 97 new coronavirus deaths, 3,257 cases

Jul 15, 2020, 8:28 AM | Updated: 10:37 pm
coronavirus covid-19 testing...
Cars line up for drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix on July 14, 2020. (KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross)
(KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross)

This is a regularly updated story with the latest information, news and updates about the coronavirus and its impact in Arizona and beyond for Wednesday, July 15.

PHOENIX – The Arizona health department reported a daily high of 97 new coronavirus deaths plus 3,257 additional cases on Wednesday morning.

That moved the state’s totals to 131,354 COVID-19 cases and 2,434 fatalities.

The state reported 117 deaths on July 7, but that total included 52 confirmed through death certificate matching. There was no indication that Wednesday’s report had any death certificate matching.

The previous high death report for a day that didn’t include death certificate matching was 88 on July 1.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has been providing case and testing updates on its website each morning. The dashboard includes, among other information, testing trends, updated hospital capacity and a ZIP code map of cases.

The daily reports present data after the state receives statistics and confirms them, which can lag by several days. They don’t represent the actual activity over the past 24 hours.

New cases have been increasing in Arizona at a faster rate than testing has been increasing, indicating community spread of a virus that has no impact on some people and is seriously debilitating or fatal for others. Infected people who don’t show symptoms are still capable of spreading the coronavirus.

Face coverings can help prevent the virus’ spread, health experts say, and are required in public throughout the Phoenix area and many other Arizona communities when social distancing isn’t possible.

Arizona’s weekly positive rate for PCR tests, which diagnose active coronavirus infections, had been steadily rising since early May, when it was 5%, but is showing signs of leveling off. The positive rate for last week’s completed tests is 17%, which, if it holds up, would be the first weekly decline in 10 weeks.

The PCR positive rate peaked the week starting June 28 at 21%. Previous weekly rates can change as test results come in for samples taken during those times.

There have been more than 735,000 PCR tests completed in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, including 13,993 added to the total Wednesday. The positive rate was at 14.3%, up from 14.2% the previous day. It was 12% on the last day of June and 6.7% on the last day of May.

The number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients in Arizona’s hospitals dipped overnight to 3,493 on Tuesday, 24 below the record high from the previous day.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds also declined overnight from a record high, falling from 970 on Monday to 929 on Tuesday.

According to hospital data for Tuesday, 51.2% of all Arizona inpatients and 61% of the state’s ICU patients are confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.

In other notable hospital data from Tuesday related to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients:

  • 477 were discharged, the fifth most ever.
  • 1,810 were seen in emergency departments, snapping a six-day streak of declining numbers with a jump of 257 from the previous day.
  • 671 were on ventilators, three fewer than the record high seen the previous day. (About half of the state’s ventilator supply remained unused.)
  • 108 intubations for respiratory distress were performed, 11 fewer than the previous day.

Arizona’s overall inpatient and ICU occupancy increased slightly Tuesday.

Inpatient beds were 87% full, 2 percentage points higher than the previous day. Inpatient beds have been at least 85% full each of the past eight days, peaking at 88% on July 10.

ICU beds were 90% full, also 2 percentage points above the previous day. Monday was the only day since June 29 that the ICU occupancy rate was below 89%. A high of 91% was reported July 7.

Hospital bed data on the health department website does not include surge beds that have not been activated but can potentially increase capacity.

Below are Wednesday’s latest developments about the coronavirus pandemic from around the state, country and world:

  • Navajo Nation reported 80 new coronavirus cases and four additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 405. The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 8,370. Approximately 6,184 individuals have recovered from the virus, Navajo Nation said in the report.
  • Arizona teachers voiced fears from their cars about returning to school as the state continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus.
  • Housing advocacy groups have joined lawmakers in lobbying Gov. Ducey to extend his coronavirus-related moratorium on evictions, which will expire next week.
  • Maricopa County officials said additional supplies have been ordered as the Medical Examiner’s Office morgue entered surge capacity.
  • The Arizona Department of Health Services announced a deal to bring in nearly 600 out-of-state nurses for hospitals expanding capacity under surge plans.
  • In a story (subscription required) about why Arizona was unprepared for its coronavirus surge, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sonora Quest, which handles 80% of the state’s COVID-19 testing, is receiving 14,000 samples a day but processing only 10,000, with results taking up to 11 days.
  • Arizona’s teacher shortage could worsen due to some teachers being afraid to return to their classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Statistics gathered by the Officer Down Memorial Page suggest that nearly twice as many law enforcement officials have died this year from coronavirus exposure than from bullet wounds.

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Arizona reports record 97 new coronavirus deaths, 3,257 cases