ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona reports more than 200 COVID deaths Tuesday, but many weren’t recent

Dec 14, 2021, 9:58 AM | Updated: Dec 15, 2021, 9:03 am
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona health officials reported more than 200 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, the most in a day since February, but many of those fatalities didn’t occur recently.

The Arizona Department of Health Services added 2,168 cases, the smallest batch of the month, and 203 deaths to its COVID-19 dashboard.

However, 198 of the deaths were identified through a research process known as death certificate matching for people who died up to six weeks ago, ADHS said.

Tuesday’s report put the state’s documented pandemic totals at 1,320,748 cases and 23,243 deaths.

Meanwhile, available hospital capacity has increased slightly in recent days even though the number COVID-19 patients remains high, as facilities delay certain non-emergency procedures for non-COVID patients.

The number of confirmed or suspected COVID inpatients was 2,764 on Monday, up 76 from the previous day and the fourth-most since Feb. 7.

ICU usage for COVID patients dipped for the third consecutive day to 695 beds, down eight from the previous day.

Remaining hospital capacity fell to pandemic-low levels last week, dropping to 392 beds (4% of capacity) statewide for inpatients on Wednesday and 68 for ICUs (4% of capacity) on Saturday. By Monday, available space was up to 575 inpatient beds (7% of capacity) and 91 ICU beds (5% of capacity).

COVID patients took up 31% of state’s inpatient beds and 40% of the ICU beds on Monday.

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 steadily again in October.

ADHS released new data last week 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.

Twelve percent of the completed diagnostic tests for samples taken last week returned positive as of Tuesday’s dashboard update, down 1 point from the previous week.

Dr. Richard Carmona, the state’s top pandemic adviser and a former U.S. surgeon general, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News last week that nearly 80% of people hospitalized with COVID haven’t been vaccinated.

The dashboard showed 67.9% of Arizonans old enough to get vaccinated have received at least one shot, while 58% of them are fully vaccinated. That trails the national rates of 76.6% of age-eligible residents with at least one dose and 64.8% fully vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine seems to offer less defense against the omicron variant, which officials said Monday has been detected in metro Phoenix, but still good protection from hospitalization, according to an analysis of data from South Africa. The analysis also found that omicron appears to cause less severe illness than previous versions of the coronavirus.

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 (including people 16 and older for Pfizer) 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 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 Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona reports more than 200 COVID deaths Tuesday, but many weren’t recent