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Arizona’s COVID-19 pandemic began with single case 1 year ago

A run on toilet paper and other items left many store shelves empty in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, including at this Glendale Target on March 13, 2020. Arizona's first confirmed coronavirus case was reported on Jan. 26, 2020. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images).

PHOENIX – One year ago on Jan. 26, Arizona reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case.

At that time, the now-common name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus was not yet being used, and only a handful of cases had been confirmed in the United States.

The patient, a Maricopa County resident and member of the Arizona State University community who lived in Tempe, had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak.

It was one of only five confirmed cases in the United States, all of which had recently traveled from Wuhan.

On the day the first case was announced, the Arizona Department of Health Services said “the immediate health risk … to the general American public is considered low.”

No other cases were reported in Arizona until March, although grocery store shelves soon emptied as rattled customers snatched up toilet paper and other durable goods.

Gov. Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency on March 11, when the state had a total of nine confirmed cases.

The first confirmed Arizona coronavirus death was announced on March 20, and more than 100 cases per day were being reported by the end of the month.

The number of daily cases ballooned into the thousands by June, starting a first wave that ebbed in early July.

After several relatively quiet months, the virus roared back with a vengeance starting in November, fueled by travel and gatherings over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Arizona became a national hot spot during both surges, although the current wave has been receding in recent weeks.

As of Tuesday morning, the state health department had documented 732,643 COVID-19 cases and 12,448 deaths. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

With vaccines being developed in record time, and although supplies remain limited, there is hope that there won’t be a third wave.

As of Tuesday, around 480,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been been given in Arizona, with more than 70,000 people getting their complete two-shot regimen, according to ADHS. More than a million doses have been delivered to the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit

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