ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona reports 120 more COVID deaths as inpatient numbers keep rising

Nov 23, 2021, 9:11 AM

PHOENIX – Arizona on Tuesday had one of its largest daily COVID-19 death reports since last winter and saw the number of hospital inpatients with the coronavirus rise for the 11th consecutive day.

The Arizona Department of Health Services added 120 deaths and 3,057 new cases (in an incomplete report) to its COVID-19 dashboard, pushing the state’s documented totals for the pandemic to 1,248,184 infections and 22,062 fatalities.

The number of deaths reported in a day has been higher than Tuesday’s update only three times since February, most recently on Nov. 3.

The new case batch was lower than what it typically would have been because of a reporting issue with one provider, ADHS said. As a result, Wednesday’s case report is expected to be inflated by the backlog.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 surged this summer, when the highly transmissible delta variant became the dominant version of the virus, and then tailed off after a mid-September peak. But they started rising again in October and have reached levels not seen in more than nine months.

There were 2,551 confirmed or suspected COVID inpatients recorded in Arizona hospitals Monday, 81 more than the previous day and the most since Feb. 9, when the winter surge was easing but vaccines were in limited supply.

ICU usage for COVID patients dropped to 620 beds Monday, 30 fewer than the previous day, when the number was the highest it had been since Feb. 13.

The inpatient and ICU numbers each have increased by around 40% since the end of October.

“We can’t say exactly why this increase is happening even before the holiday season, though cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to be largely among unvaccinated people,” Jessica Rigler, ADHS assistant director for the Division of Public Health Preparedness, said in a blog post last week.

COVID-19 patients accounted for 29% of all Arizona’s inpatient capacity and 35% of the state’s ICU capacity on Monday. The number of unused hospital beds statewide was at 697 for inpatients and 114 for ICUs.

The height of the winter wave saw more than 10,000 new cases reported on some days, with over 5,000 COVID inpatients and 1,100 ICU patients.

Thirteen percent of the completed diagnostic tests for samples taken last week returned positive as of Tuesday’s dashboard update, the highest weekly percent positivity since Jan. 17-23. The winter peak for weekly percent positivity was 19% for Dec. 27-Jan 3.

The state health department’s daily updates present case and death 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 numbers posted each morning are reported electronically the previous evening by hospitals across the state.

Nearly two-thirds of Arizonans eligible for a vaccine have received at least one shot, according to the dashboard.

The minimum age to receive the Pfizer shot is 5, and it’s 18 for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer version has full Food and Drug Administration approval, while the other two were granted emergency use authorization.

Adults who received their second Pfizer or Moderna doses more than six months ago are eligible for booster shots, as are people who got the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.

“Vaccines have proven remarkably effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19,” Don Herrington, ADHS interim director, said in a press release last week.

“Now everyone 18 and older can get a safe and free booster dose to make sure they continue to have the best possible protection.”

For details about statewide vaccine availability, the ADHS website has a vaccine-finder page with locations and other information.

For information about metro Phoenix vaccine availability, Maricopa County Public Health has a locator page that lists pharmacies, government-run sites, health clinics and pop-up distribution events. Appointments may be required depending on the provider.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 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.

Information about where to get tested for COVID-19 can be found on the ADHS website.

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Arizona reports 120 more COVID deaths as inpatient numbers keep rising