Arizona reports 1,281 new coronavirus cases, 42 more deaths

Sep 18, 2020, 8:32 AM | Updated: 8:38 am
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/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 Friday, Sept. 18.

PHOENIX – Arizona health authorities reported 1,281 new coronavirus cases and 42 additional deaths on Friday morning.

That put the state’s documented totals at 212,942 COVID-19 infections and 42 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

It was the second consecutive day with more than 1,000 new cases reported, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the virus is spreading at an increased rate.

On Thursday, the state started adding results, including backlog from several months, from a recently authorized antigen diagnostic test to its COVID-19 dashboard. As a result, officials were expecting a spike in newly reported cases for several days.

Thursday saw 1,753 new cases were reported, about 1,000 higher than the previous day and the most since Aug. 1. The health department said 764 of the cases reported Friday were from older antigen tests.

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, but Arizona Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said it is faster and has been proven effective enough to be counted in official totals.

Despite the rise in cases, 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 dipped to 516 on Thursday, the second lowest recorded since it was 338 on April 8, the first day AZDHS reported the data.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds ticked up to 130, 11 more than the record-low number from the previous day.

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

Overall, inpatient beds were 81% full on Thursday, 2 points lower than the previous day. The inpatient occupancy rate peaked at 88% on July 9-10.

The ICU occupancy rate was 81%, 1 point higher than the previous day. 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.

Arizona’s weekly positive rate for COVID-19 diagnostic tests is on pace to be 4% for the third consecutive week, with 21,802 of this week’s tests completed and recorded.

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.

With the antigen test results added, the rolling seven-day average for newly reported cases increased to 665.43 on Thursday, according to tracking by The Associated Press.

The seven-day average of newly reported deaths ticked up to 19.43, in the range seen in late May before a spike in cases and fatalities.

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

  • Globally, there were more than 30.2 million COVID-19 cases and 946,000 deaths as of Friday 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 reports 1,281 new coronavirus cases, 42 more deaths