Arizona reports more than 3,600 new COVID cases as hospitals near capacity

Dec 9, 2021, 9:32 AM | Updated: 11:51 am

Leanna Arcila, 7, is licked by Watson, a therapy dog with the Pawtucket police department, as she r...

Leanna Arcila, 7, is licked by Watson, a therapy dog with the Pawtucket police department, as she receives her COVID-19 vaccination from Dr. Eugenio Fernandez at Nathanael Greene Elementary School in Pawtucket, R.I., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

PHOENIX – Arizona health officials on Thursday reported 3,663 new COVID-19 cases and 75 additional deaths, while the state’s hospitals are fuller than they’ve ever been during the pandemic.

The latest update brought the state’s documented totals to 1,305,260 infections and 22,854 fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 dashboard.

The number of unused hospital beds statewide was at 392 for inpatients and 78 for ICUs on Wednesday, according to the dashboard, leaving just 4% of the overall capacity available for each; all of those figures are the lowest since the state started reporting them in April 2020.

(Arizona Department of Health Services))

Confirmed or suspected COVID patients accounted for 32% of all Arizona’s inpatient capacity and 40% of the ICU capacity.

The number of COVID inpatients was 2,789 on Wednesday, up 36 from the previous day and the second-most since Feb. 7.

ICU usage for COVID patients was at 704 beds, up five from the previous day and the most since Feb. 11.

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 seen last winter, when the vaccine rollout was just starting.

Hospital officials say a large majority of the current COVID patients are unvaccinated.

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.

Thirteen percent of the completed diagnostic tests for samples taken last week returned positive as of Thursday’s dashboard update, down 1 point from the previous week. The percent positivity was at 12% for samples processed from this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Arizona reported its first confirmed case of the omicron variant.

“Much remains unknown about the omicron variant at this time, including whether it is more transmissible and more capable of producing severe illness than the delta variant,” Don Herrington, ADHS interim director, said in a press release.

“We do know that current COVID-19 vaccines have remained very effective against delta and other variants, and I strongly encourage Arizonans to get vaccinated if they aren’t already and make sure they’re current on their booster dose if they are fully vaccinated.”

Also on Wednesday, ADHS released data showing that Arizonans who aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were nearly four times more likely than those who are to test positive in October and over 15 times more likely to die from the virus.

The department added a link to the new vaccination status report, which will be updated every two weeks, on top of the COVID dashboard.

“We are very hopeful that this will be an additional point of information to encourage those who have not been vaccinated to go get their COVID vaccine if they are 5 or older,” Jessica Rigler, ADHS assistant director overseeing the Division of Public Health Preparedness, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The dashboard showed 67.4% of Arizonans old enough to get vaccinated have received at least one shot, while 57.8% of them are fully vaccinated. That trails the national rates of 75.9% of age-eligible residents with at least one dose and 64.2% fully vaccinated.

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.

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Arizona reports more than 3,600 new COVID cases as hospitals near capacity