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Arizona reports 975 new coronavirus cases, 17 additional deaths

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, Oct. 21.

PHOENIX – Arizona health authorities reported 975 new coronavirus cases and 17 additional deaths on Wednesday morning.

That put the state’s documented totals at 233,912 COVID-19 infections and 5,854 fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Key metrics about the severity of Arizona’s pandemic have dropped dramatically from summertime peaks, but cases and hospitalizations have been trending upward this month.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospital inpatients rose to 832 on Tuesday, 42% higher than Oct. 1, when it was 586.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds increased slightly to 171, 36.8% higher than Oct. 1, when it was 125.

The hospitalizations remain far under the pandemic highs of 3,517 inpatients and 970 ICU patients, both recorded July 13.

Arizona’s weekly percent positivity for COVID-19 diagnostic testing was at 5% for last week as of Wednesday’s update, with 74,657 tests recorded. It was 4% each of the six previous weeks.

For the 9,698 tests completed this week, it’s up to 7%.

The positivity rate, an indicator of how much the virus is spreading in the community, 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 rolling seven-day average for the state health department’s newly reported cases was at 886.14 for Tuesday, according to tracking by The Associated Press, 84.6% higher than the average of 480 on Oct. 1.

The seven-day average of newly reported deaths hasn’t seen a corresponding rise, falling slightly to 10 for Tuesday, lower than it was at the start of the month.

The seven-day averages remain well below their peaks of 3,844 cases on July 6 and 94 fatalities on July 30.

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 hospitalization data posted each morning 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 slowed after those steps were taken. All of Arizona’s counties have since hit benchmarks established by the health department that allow closed businesses to reopen under capacity restrictions and other regulations.

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

  • The Navajo Nation reported 29 new coronavirus cases and no recent deaths, bringing the total numbers to 11,030 infections and 574 fatalities.
  • Wilson School District in Phoenix is reverting to virtual-only learning until Nov. 9 after a reported coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter sent to parents Wednesday.
  • Will Humble, former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, called on Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday to utilize federal funds to support counties investigating businesses with coronavirus complaints.
  • U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters. The CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.
  • The Kingman City Council voted Tuesday to lift its mask mandate, which had been in effect since July 1.
  • The Arizona Department of Health Services released a coronavirus vaccination distribution plan that prioritizes health care and emergency workers.
  • Globally, there were more than 40.89 million COVID-19 cases and 1.12 million deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The figures for the U.S. were around 8.27 million cases and 221,000 deaths.

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