Arizona delta wave reaches new heights in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Dec 3, 2021, 9:13 AM | Updated: 10:47 am

PHOENIX – Arizona health officials reported 5,236 new COVID-19 cases and 14 additional deaths on Friday as the delta wave surges to new heights.

It was the state’s largest case update representing a single day of reporting in 10 months. In addition, inpatient hospitalizations for the virus reached their highest level since last winter’s spike.

Since 5,918 cases were added on Jan. 27, the only times more new cases were reported than Friday were when the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 dashboard was getting caught up with multiple days’ worth of data after experiencing reporting issues.

The state’s documented pandemic totals were up to 1,282,191 cases and 22,397 deaths after Friday’s update.

The dashboard also showed 2,714 confirmed or suspected COVID inpatients in Arizona hospitals on Thursday, 33 more than the previous day and the most since Feb. 8.

ICU usage for COVID patients was at 656 beds, down 12 from the previous day.

Arizona’s COVID hospitalizations surged this past summer, when the highly transmissible delta variant became the dominant version of the virus, and tailed off after a mid-September peak. They started rising again in October and are now more than halfway to the high marks of last winter’s surge.

For now, the extra-contagious delta variant accounts for practically all cases in the U.S. and continues to inflict misery across the nation at a time when many hospitals are struggling with shortages of nurses and a backlog of patients undergoing procedures that had been put off early in the pandemic.

The fear is that the new omicron variant, which has been detected in a few U.S. cases but not in Arizona, will foist even more patients, and perhaps sicker ones, onto hospitals.

“For me, it’s really just, I can’t imagine,” Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a Phoenix family physician, told The Associated Press. “Are we going to see another surge in cases that’s even higher than what we’re seeing now? What will that do to our health system? What will that do to our hospitals?”

COVID patients accounted for 31% of all Arizona’s inpatient capacity and 37% of the state’s ICU capacity on Thursday. The number of unused hospital beds statewide was at 453 for inpatients and 108 for ICUs.

Fourteen percent of the completed diagnostic tests for samples taken this week returned positive as of Friday’s dashboard update, matching last week’s mark, which was the highest weekly percent positivity since Jan. 17-23.

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.

The dashboard showed 66.7% of Arizonans old enough to get vaccinated against COVID-19 have received at least one shot, while 57.5% of them are fully vaccinated.

“I’m glad to see the ADHS data dashboard showing increased demand lately for COVID-19 booster shots and primary vaccinations. Federal officials and ADHS have advised repeatedly that vaccination is the best way to prepare for uncertainties posed by the omicron variant, not to mention from COVID-19 in general,” Jessica Rigler, ADHS assistant director overseeing the Division of Public Health Preparedness, said in a blog post Thursday.

“While there are news reports saying that some areas are seeing waits of two weeks for booster shot appointments, please keep two things in mind: 1) There is plenty of vaccine available around Arizona; 2) Appointments may be available a little farther away or at a provider you haven’t visited before if you face a longer-than-desired wait for one in your neighborhood.”

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.

Officials are now recommending booster shots for adults who received their second Pfizer or Moderna doses more than six months ago and those who got the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona delta wave reaches new heights in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations