ARIZONA NEWS

COVID inpatients surge at Arizona hospitals in early days of 2022

Jan 5, 2022, 9:06 AM | Updated: 11:40 am
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)...
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

PHOENIX – The number of COVID-19 inpatients at Arizona hospitals surged by nearly 12% over the first four days of 2022, according to data released by state health officials Wednesday morning.

The state also reported more than 7,000 new COVID cases for the sixth time in the last seven days in a wave fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant.

The addition of 7,749 cases and 61 deaths put the state’s documented pandemic totals at 1,419,562 infections and 24,570 fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 dashboard.

Even though omicron is proving to produce less severe illness than previous variants, officials are worried about what omicron’s rapid spread will do to a health care system that’s already stretched thin.

Arizona’s seven-day average for newly reported cases has more than doubled since Christmas, and the number of hospital inpatients confirmed or suspected of having COVID has risen each of the last four days.

The number of Arizona COVID inpatients was at 2,555 on Tuesday, up 11.9% since Dec. 31.

However, the trend line for COVID ICU cases has been flat in early 2022 after numbers dropped to levels not seen since mid-November. ICU use for COVID patients was at 594 beds Tuesday, up one from the previous day but the third fewest since Nov. 16.

Overall remaining hospital space was reported at 562 inpatient beds (6% of capacity) and 108 ICU beds (7% of capacity) on Tuesday. COVID cases were taking up 29% of statewide inpatient beds and 36% of the ICU beds.

Arizona’s percent positivity for diagnostic COVID testing is at a pandemic high. It was at 22% for samples taken last week as of Wednesday’s dashboard update and 26% for so far for this week’s samples.

The test data reported by ADHS is based mainly on electronic laboratory reporting and doesn’t include results from home kits unless individuals report them to their health care providers. As a result, the actual case numbers are likely higher than the official reports.

ADHS data for October showed that Arizonans who weren’t fully vaccinated against COVID were nearly four times more likely than those who were to test positive and over 15 times more likely to die from the virus. Although that was before omicron emerged, hospitals are still reporting that a vast majority of COVID patients are unvaccinated.

The state dashboard on Wednesday showed 70% of Arizonans old enough to get vaccinated had received at least one shot, with 58.8% 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 strongly recommend booster shots for adults (including people 16 and older for Pfizer) who received their second Moderna dose more than six months ago, their second Pfizer does more than five months ago or 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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COVID inpatients surge at Arizona hospitals in early days of 2022