Arizona adjusts reporting, adds 1,753 coronavirus cases, 38 deaths

Sep 17, 2020, 8:42 AM | Updated: 8:52 pm
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/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 Thursday, Sept. 17.

PHOENIX – With a warning about higher numbers because of advances in testing, Arizona health authorities reported 1,753 new coronavirus cases and 38 additional deaths on Thursday morning.

That put the state’s documented totals at 211,660 COVID-19 infections and 5,409 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Thursday’s case report, which was about 1,000 higher than the previous day and the largest since Aug. 1, included results from recent months of a newly authorized type of diagnostic test, according to a blog post from Health Director Dr. Cara Christ.

Christ said to expect higher case reports over the next few days because of the changes following a fourth antigen testing process getting Food and Drug Administration authorization recently.

Antigen testing (not to be confused with antibody, or serology, tests that detect past infections) isn’t as accurate at the predominant PCR diagnostic testing, Christ said, but it provides fast results.

Christ explained the changes to the state’s reporting that reflect advances in antigen testing:

Antigen testing for COVID-19 is becoming more readily available in Arizona. Until now, a person with a positive antigen test has only been counted in our Data Dashboard when they have a known exposure to a person with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, such as shortness of breath, cough, or sore throat. However, some people with positive antigen tests have not been counted because they don’t know if they were in contact with a known COVID-19 case and they don’t have symptoms.

Moving forward, we are expanding how we define cases to include anyone with a positive antigen test in the probable case category, which is consistent with the recently updated national case definition for COVID-19 from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE). More information on the COVID-19 case definition for Arizona is available here. Our Data Dashboard has been updated to combine antigen and PCR tests into “COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests” to replace “COVID-19 PCR Tests.”

Multiple key metrics about the severity of Arizona’s pandemic, including coronavirus-related hospitalizations, are at or near the lowest they’ve been in months.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 inpatients increased to 594 on Wednesday. It was 538 the previous day, the fewest ever recorded by AZDHS, which started posting the data April 8.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds dropped to 119, the fewest since the data was first reported.

COVID-19 inpatients peaked at 3,517 on July 13, and COVID-19 patients in ICU beds topped out at 970 the same day.

Arizona’s weekly positive rate for COVID-19 diagnostic tests has been at 4% for each of the past two weeks, but it’s ticked up to 5% for the 13,359 tests taken and processed this week.

The positive rate had been as high as 20% at the end of June.

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 and the results are documented by the state.

The Arizona health department’s daily reports present case, death and testing data after the state receives statistics and confirms them, which can lag by several days or more. They don’t represent the actual activity over the past 24 hours.

The hospital data posted each morning, however, is reported the previous evening by the hospitals.

As cases skyrocketed in June, local governments in many parts of Arizona — including all of Maricopa County — implemented face mask requirements, and Gov. Doug Ducey issued statewide executive orders to close certain businesses and restrict restaurant occupancy.

The spread of COVID-19 soon slowed and has been steadily falling since the peak of the pandemic. Much of the state has hit benchmarks established by the health department that allow certain businesses to reopen under capacity restrictions and other regulations.

The rolling seven-day average for newly reported cases was 480.86 on Wednesday, according to tracking by The Associated Press, near the lowest mark since late May.

The seven-day average of newly reported deaths was at 17.14, near where it was in early June before fatalities spiked.

The seven-day average for new cases peaked July 6 at 3,844, and the stat for deaths reached a high of 94 on July 30.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 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.

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

  • Arizona State University continues to see a decrease in active coronavirus cases, according to a Thursday update.
  • The Navajo Nation reported 19 new coronavirus cases and one additional death, bringing the totals to 10,083 infections and 540 fatalities.
  • AZDHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said a new coronavirus testing method that was introduced to daily reporting totals Thursday is quicker but less accurate than others.
  • A staff member at Skyline High School tested positive for coronavirus, according to a letter sent to parents Thursday. The staff member was last on campus Tuesday and the school believes the exposure risk was low.
  • Hamilton” will be back in the Valley for three weeks in the second half of 2021 after the show was originally postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Businesses that were closed under executive order can now open in Yuma and Gila counties, leaving only one Arizona county outside of the reopening range.
  • Nearly all counties in Arizona are meeting the schools benchmarks to safely offer hybrid learning, health data showed.
  • Greenlee County in southeastern Arizona has reported zero active coronavirus cases for the past two days.
  • Maricopa County Public Health is leading the “serosurvey” in partnership with Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic. As of Wednesday, 63 households of the 168 needed, or 38%, had participated. They have until Sunday to reach their goal.
  • Globally, there were more than 29.9 million COVID-19 cases and 941,000 deaths as of Thursday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The figures for the U.S. were around 6.6 million cases and 197,000 deaths.

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Arizona adjusts reporting, adds 1,753 coronavirus cases, 38 deaths