Arizona’s COVID-19 pandemic began with single case 2 years ago Wednesday

Jan 26, 2022, 8:52 AM | Updated: 11:41 am
Empty shelves were found at a Kroger grocery store on March 13, 2020, in Grosse Ile, Michigan. Some...
Empty shelves were found at a Kroger grocery store on March 13, 2020, in Grosse Ile, Michigan. Some Americans were stocking up on food, toilet paper, water and other items after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Two years ago Wednesday, Arizona reported its first confirmed case of what is now known as COVID-19.

At the time, the ubiquitous name for the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19 is short for “coronavirus disease 2019”) was not yet being used. Only four other cases had been confirmed in the United States, and the World Health Organization was still more than two weeks away from declaring a global pandemic.

Arizona’s first COVID patient was a member of the Arizona State University community who lived in Tempe. The person had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated.

No other cases were reported in Arizona until March, but grocery store shelves soon emptied as customers rattled by uncertainty stockpiled toilet paper, water and nonperishable goods. It was a first sign of how daily routines would be disrupted over the next two years – and counting.

“In my career as a physician and as a medical researcher, this is the first time that I’ve ever seen a new disease enter the pantheon of human diseases that has had such an incredibly profound effect on the health of so many people,” Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute, said during a press briefing Wednesday morning.

“It’s just a staggering effect, something that has now become the leading cause of death here in Arizona, in the United States, probably in the world.”

On the second anniversary of the first case, Arizona is in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19, this one fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Here’s the latest data on the pandemic in Arizona (hospital, case, death, testing and vaccination statistics are based on Wednesday morning’s update of the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 dashboard; seven-day averages are based on tracking by The New York Times):

COVID-19 cases

  • Documented pandemic total – 1,799,503
  • Daily new reports – Wednesday: 18,229; One day earlier: 13,972; One week earlier: 20,497; Pandemic high: 27,681 (Jan. 22, 2022)
  • Seven-day average – Tuesday: 19,369; One day earlier: 20,778; One week earlier: 20,016; Pandemic high: 20,778 (Jan. 24, 2022)

COVID-19 deaths

  • Documented pandemic total – 25,899
  • Daily new reports – Wednesday: 275; One day earlier: 0; One week earlier: 21; Pandemic high: 335 (Jan. 12, 2021)
  • Seven-day average – Tuesday: 59; One day earlier: 59; One week earlier: 58; Pandemic high: 175 (Jan. 13, 2021)

COVID-19 hospitalizations

  • COVID inpatients – Tuesday: 3,511; One day earlier: 3,526; One week earlier: 3,276; Pandemic high: 5,082 (Jan. 11, 2021)
  • COVID ICU patients – Tuesday: 631; One day earlier: 616; One week earlier: 589; Pandemic high: 1,183 (Jan. 11, 2021)

Statewide hospital capacity

  • Inpatients beds available – Tuesday: 471 (5% of capacity); One day earlier: 534 (6%); One week earlier: 482 (6%)
  • Percentage of inpatient beds with COVID patients – Tuesday: 40%; One day earlier: 40%; One week earlier: 37%
  • ICU beds available – Tuesday: 92 (6% of capacity); One day earlier: 107 (7%); One week earlier: 95 (6%)
  • Percentage of ICU beds with COVID patients – Tuesday: 38%; One day earlier: 37%; One week earlier: 36%

Laboratory diagnostic testing

  • Weekly percent positivity – Samples taken this week: 32%; Last week: 35%; Two weeks ago: 33%; Pandemic high (for a full week): 35% (Jan. 16-22, 2022)
  • Find a testing site: ADHS (statewide)


  • Percentage of eligible Arizonans fully vaccinated – As of Wednesday: 59.9%; One day earlier: 59.8%
  • Percentage of eligible Arizonans with at least one shot – As of Wednesday: 72.5%; One day earlier: 72.4%
  • Find a vaccine site: ADHS (statewide); Maricopa County Public Health (metro Phoenix)

Additional details

The ADHS daily case and death updates can cover multiple days of reporting because of data processing procedures and aren’t meant to represent the actual activity over the previous 24 hours. The hospitalization numbers posted each morning are reported electronically the previous evening by hospitals across the state.

The actual caseload is likely higher than officially reported 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.

Vaccines have proven to reduce the likelihood of a COVID infection causing serious illness or death, even with the highly contagious omicron variant.

The minimum age for vaccination is 5 for Pfizer and 18 for Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. Boosters are approved, and highly encouraged, for individuals who received their second Pfizer (ages 12 and up only) or Moderna doses at least five months ago or the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.

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Arizona’s COVID-19 pandemic began with single case 2 years ago Wednesday