ARIZONA NEWS

Nearly 3 in 10 COVID-19 tests recorded in Arizona coming back positive

Jan 7, 2022, 9:34 AM

PHOENIX – In the latest sign of the omicron variant’s virulence, nearly three in 10 COVID-19 diagnostic tests recorded by Arizona health officials this week came back positive as of Friday’s reporting.

As expected, Arizona’s COVID case counts are soaring following the holiday season of travel and gatherings, fueled by omicron’s ability to spread more easily than previous variants.

The state’s positivity rate for diagnostic COVID testing was never above 20% until last week but is hitting new heights with omicron surging. The rate was up to 28% for samples taken this week as of Friday’s update on the Arizona Department of Health Services dashboard. It was at 22% for last week’s samples.

But even though near-record new COVID case numbers are being reported, hospitalizations have risen only slightly in recent days. COVID-related hospital numbers are only about half of what they were last winter and remain below the delta wave peak from a month ago.

The addition of 14,888 cases, the second-largest daily report of the pandemic, and 30 deaths on Friday put the state’s documented totals at 1,445,129 infections and 24,616 fatalities.

The actual caseload is likely higher than the officially reported numbers because ADHS data is based mainly on electronic laboratory reporting and doesn’t include results from home kits unless individuals report them to their health care providers.

And although omicron appears to produce a smaller percentage of severe illnesses than previous variants, officials are worried the case spike will be large enough to create a significant strain on the hospital system, which already was stretched thin.

Arizona’s COVID inpatient count was at 2,562 on Thursday, up six from the previous day. COVID ICU cases were at 608, up three from the previous day.

Overall remaining hospital space was reported at 483 inpatient beds (6% of capacity) and 95 ICU beds (6% of capacity) on Thursday. COVID cases were taking up 29% of statewide inpatient beds and 36% of the ICU beds.

COVID-19 vaccines still provide significant protection against hospitalization and death, but omicron is causing more breakthrough infections than previous variants. Booster shots can further reduce the risk of breakthrough cases.

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.

Boosters are available for adults (plus those 12 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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Nearly 3 in 10 COVID-19 tests recorded in Arizona coming back positive