Arizona reports 3,500 new coronavirus cases, 134 additional deaths

Jul 21, 2020, 8:21 AM | Updated: Jul 22, 2020, 7:49 am
covid-19 testing coronavirus...
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

This is a regularly updated story with the latest information, news and updates about the coronavirus and its impact in Arizona and beyond for Tuesday, July 21.

PHOENIX – The Arizona health department reported 3,500 new coronavirus cases and 134 additional deaths on Tuesday morning, while hospital usage in the state showed more signs of easing.

The fatalities included 77 from death certificate matching, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

That brought the state’s totals to 148,683 COVID-19 cases and 2,918 deaths.

Tuesday was the sixth time the state said it included cases of death certificate matching in its daily report. (Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s health director, explained the matching process in a May 8 blog post.)

The 57 non-certificate deaths were the most reported in a single day since Friday.

The state health department 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.

The rate of new Arizona coronavirus cases has shown signs of slowing in recent weeks following the implementation of face mask requirements in many areas — including all of Maricopa County — and statewide executive orders to close businesses such as bars and gyms and to restrict restaurant occupancy.

Those moves were made after the state became a global hot spot for the coronavirus, which has no impact on some people and is seriously debilitating or fatal for others. Infected people without symptoms – which include but are not limited to cough, fever and difficulty breathing — are capable of spreading the virus.

According to the Associated Press, the seven-day average for new cases has been under 3,100 for the past four days after peaking at 3,844 on July 6.

Arizona’s weekly positive rate for diagnostic PCR tests, which indicate how much the virus is spreading, had been steadily rising since early May, when it was 5%, but is starting to drop.

The positive rate for last week’s completed tests is 16%, which is higher than health officials want to see but would be the lowest since the week starting June 7.

The positive rate for two weeks ago was 18%, down from the pandemic-high 21% from the previous week and the first decline in the positive rate since the week starting May 3.

Weekly rates are based on when the samples are taken, not when they are reported, so the percentage for recent weeks can fluctuate as labs get caught up on testing, which can take 10 days or more in some cases.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 inpatients decreased Monday to 3,041, the fewest since July 2. It was the fourth consecutive daily decline and sixth in seven days.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds declined by 21 overnight to 865 on Monday, the fourth consecutive day without an increase and the fewest since July 8.

According to hospital data for Monday, 45.8% of all Arizona inpatients and 59.1% of the state’s ICU patients are confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.

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

  • 345 were discharged, a statistic that’s been declining as the number of hospitalizations have fallen.
  • 1,243 were seen in emergency departments, the 12th day-to-day drop in the past 13 days and the lowest since June 29.
  • 608 were on ventilators, an overnight decrease of 14 and the fourth consecutive day without an increase. (More than half of the state’s ventilator supply remained unused.)
  • 73 intubations for respiratory distress were performed, 17 fewer than the previous day and the fewest since July 2.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s overall inpatient and ICU occupancy rates fell to their lowest points in weeks.

Inpatient beds were 83% full Monday, falling by 3 percentage points overnight after three consecutive days at 86%. It was the lowest inpatient capacity percentage since July 6 and the second lowest since June 22.

ICU beds were 85% full, 2 percentage points lower than the previous day and the lowest since June 22.

The inpatient occupancy rate peaked July 9 and 10 at 88%, and the ICU occupancy rate topped out at 91% on 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 Tuesday’s latest developments about the coronavirus pandemic from around the state, country and world:

  • Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez reported an additional 22 COVID-19 cases and three more virus-related deaths among the Navajo Nation.
  • The HeroZona Foundation announced it will add a second drive-thru location to provide south Phoenix residents with free coronavirus testing.
  • The Arizona School Board Association sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey asking for more guidance at local levels when it comes to the state’s plan to reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • U.S. Sen. Martha McSally is hopeful that a coronavirus-related bill she is working on will bring relief to the United States by way of China.
  • Twelve Arizona organizations that provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness are receiving a total of $975,000 from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund, Gov. Doug Ducey announced.
  • UnitedHealth Group is awarding $45,000 to Boys and Girls Clubs in Phoenix that are providing child care for essential workers and low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of $105,000 in Empowering Health grants from UnitedHealth to Arizona community-based organizations.
  • After traveling to New York in April to help on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, an emergency room nurse living in Phoenix is now in a life-threatening battle of his own.
  • Salt River Project announced it would be extending its disconnection moratorium until Oct. 1 but will resume late fees for many customers next month.

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Arizona reports 3,500 new coronavirus cases, 134 additional deaths