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Arizona’s top health official warns to stay vigilant as COVID-19 cases rise

PHOENIX — Arizona top public health official released a video Tuesday warning residents to remain vigilant as coronavirus cases in the state continue to rise.

Dr. Cara Christ, public health director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, blamed this round of spiking cases on small household gatherings where people feel safe around each other.

“Globally and nationally, cases of COVID-19 have increased over the past several weeks and now that trend is occurring in Arizona too,” Christ said.

Christ’s concerns come as Arizona is experiencing its highest week of percent positivity in more than two months.

For the 83,480 tests recorded last week, the positivity rate was 6%, the highest since it was 8% for the week starting Aug. 2.

As of Tuesday’s report, the positive rate was 9% for the 1,167 tests recorded this week.

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

“Arizonans need to remain vigilant,” Christ said.

Christ urged Arizonans to continue practicing social distancing and wear a mask in public settings when possible.

Some Arizona cities, however, have relaxed their COVID-19 guidelines and repealed mask mandates.

Mohave County’s three largest cities have rescinded their mandates on wearing face masks in public.

Maricopa and Pima counties still have theirs in place but there is currently no statewide mandate.

“We urge all Arizonans to appropriately wear a mask whether or not they live in an area with a mandate,” Christ said

Banner Health announced Wednesday it is reopening select respiratory cohort units as a precaution because of the rising cases.

The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospital inpatients rose overnight to 861 on Monday.

That was 46.9% higher than Oct. 1, when it was 586, and the most since Aug. 26.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds increased to 187, 49.6% higher than Oct. 1, when it was 125, and the second most since Sept. 10.

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

“Arizona is in a much different place than it was in June or July,” Christ said.

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