Arizona adds 3,467 COVID cases, 29 deaths on Saturday

Dec 18, 2021, 8:55 AM

PHOENIX – Signs are emerging that Arizona’s winter COVID-19 surge has passed its peak, but the risks posed by the virus remain high.

COVID-related hospitalizations, diagnostic test positivity rates and new case reports have all trended downward over the past week to 10 days, although hospitals remain heavily stressed under the weight of the pandemic.

In addition, it’s not yet clear if or how the omicron variant, which has been documented in at least three Arizona counties, including Maricopa, will change the trajectory of the pandemic.

Arizona health officials reported 3,467 new COVID cases and 29 additional deaths on Saturday. That put the state’s documented totals at 1,334,061 infections and 23,516 fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ COVID-19 dashboard.

The rolling seven-day average for new cases in the state was down to 3,059 on Friday, according to tracking by The New York Times, a drop of nearly 25% from the delta wave high mark registered on Dec. 8. The seven-day average for newly reported deaths hasn’t shown any definitive recent trend since that date, however, fluctuating between 60 and 80.

While hospital officials have been issuing warnings about caseloads affecting the level of care they can offer, COVID-related inpatient and ICU patient numbers are showing their first sustained declines since September.

The number of confirmed or suspected COVID inpatients was 2,533 on Friday, down 36 from the previous day and the fewest since Nov. 26. The day-over-day number of COVID inpatients has declined on nine of the 11 days since the delta wave peak of 2,800 on Dec. 6.

ICU use for COVID patients was at 682 beds, down two from the previous day and the seventh consecutive day without an increase. The delta wave high-water mark for COVID ICU use was 719 on Dec. 10.

Despite the recent dip in COVID patients, overall hospital use remains near pandemic-high levels.

Remaining hospital capacity fell to pandemic lows last week, dropping to 392 beds (4% of capacity) statewide for inpatients on Dec. 8 and 68 for ICUs (4% of capacity) on Saturday. On Friday, available space was reported at 449 inpatient beds (5% of capacity) and 68 ICU beds (4% of capacity).

COVID cases took up 29% of statewide inpatient beds and 39% of the ICU beds on Friday.

Arizona’s weekly percent positivity for COVID-19 diagnostic testing has been trending downward this month but remains at a level of high transmission, with 10.2% of the completed samples taken this week returning positive as of Saturday’s dashboard update. That’s down 2 points from the previous week and 3 points from the week starting Nov. 28.

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.

Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital network, reported this week that 88% of its COVID ICU patients hadn’t been vaccinated.

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 were unvaccinated.

The state dashboard on Saturday showed 68.3% of Arizonans old enough to get vaccinated have received at least one shot, with 58.2% fully vaccinated. That trails the national rates of 76.9% of age-eligible individuals with at least one dose and 65.1% 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.

Health officials recommend 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.

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Arizona adds 3,467 COVID cases, 29 deaths on Saturday