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Arizona reports 355 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death and relatively stable hospital numbers

  | Arizona Republic

Arizona reported 355 new COVID-19 cases and one new known death on Sunday, as hospital metrics for the disease remain relatively stable.

Identified cases rose to 220,754 and known deaths are at 5,706, according to the daily report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

The number of patients hospitalized statewide for known or suspected COVID-19 was at 545 on Saturday, lower than Friday’s 605 and the previous three days. Inpatient numbers look to be possibly plateauing and increasing slightly, but more time is needed to point to a trend. During the peak of Arizona’s surge in July, the number of hospitalized patients suspected or confirmed to have the virus exceeded 3,000.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in intensive care units across Arizona was at 133 on Saturday, the most since Sept. 16. The level is far below what it was in July, when ICU beds in use for COVID-19 reached 970.

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The number of Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators was at 59 on Saturday, a slight increase from Friday’s count of 52. The metric has hovered around that level for about a week and a half. In mid-July, as many as 687 patients across the state with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 were on ventilators. 

The Department of Health Services has begun including as probable cases anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine current infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) are a newer type of COVID-19 diagnostic test that use a nasal swab or other fluid sample to test for current infection. Results are typically produced within 15 minutes. 

A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there’s an increased chance of false-negative results, the Mayo Clinic says. Depending on the situation, Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result. 

Sunday’s dashboard shows 83% of inpatient beds and 80% of ICU beds in use, which includes people being treated for COVID-19 and other patients. COVID-19 patients were using 7% of all inpatient beds and 8% of ICU beds. Overall, 24% of ventilators were in use.

The number of weekly tests conducted dropped significantly in July and into August, after which it has remained flatter with some fluctuation.

Of known test results from the prior four weeks, 4% had come back positive as of Sept. 27, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona’s seven-day moving average of percent positives at 6.6% and shows it has generally trended downward in recent weeks but has reached a plateau.

A positivity rate of 5% is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.

Here’s what you need to know about Sunday’s new numbers:

Reported cases in Arizona: 220,754

Cases increased by 355, or 0.16%, from Saturday’s 220,399 identified cases since the outbreak began.

Cases by county: 143,183 in Maricopa, 25,925 in Pima, 12,815 in Yuma, 10,745 in Pinal, 5,819 in Navajo, 4,275 in Coconino, 4,050 in Mohave, 3,579 in Apache, 2,883 in Santa Cruz, 2,617 in Yavapai, 1,919 in Cochise, 1,451 in Gila, 885 in Graham, 548 in La Paz and 60 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people is highest in Yuma County, followed by Santa Cruz, Navajo and Apache counties. The rate in Yuma County is 5,573 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate is 2,209 cases per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Navajo Nation reported 10,421 cases and 558 confirmed deaths as of Saturday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections said 2,587 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, including 976 in Tucson; 40,050 inmates statewide have been tested; and five total test results are pending in the state prison system. A total of 708 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the state corrections department said. Seventeen incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 11 additional deaths under investigation. 

While race/ethnicity is unknown for 31% of cases statewide, 31% of cases are Hispanic or Latino, 25% are white, 6% are Native American, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander.

Laboratories have completed 1,496,131 diagnostic tests for COVID-19, 11% of which have come back positive. That number now includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests had increased since mid-May but began decreasing in July and for the past four weeks has been at 4%. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

Arizona as of Saturday had one of the highest overall rates of COVID-19 infection in the country — fifth behind Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. Arizona’s infection rate is 3,064 cases per 100,000 people, the CDC says. The national average is 2,209 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard-hit early on in the pandemic may be an undercount due to a lack of available testing in March and April.

Reported deaths: 5,706 known deaths

On Sunday, one new known death was reported.

County deaths: 3,426 in Maricopa, 627 in Pima, 347 in Yuma (down from 348 on Saturday), 236 in Navajo, 228 in Mohave (down from 229 on Saturday), 211 in Pinal, 165 in Apache, 144 in Coconino, 84 in Yavapai, 73 in Cochise, 63 in Santa Cruz, 60 in Gila, 25 in Graham, 15 in La Paz and fewer than three in Greenlee.

People aged 65 and older made up 4,058 of the 5,706 deaths, or 71%.

While race/ethnicity is unknown for 11% of deaths, 42% of those who died were white, 30% were Hispanic or Latino, 10% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data show.

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona was 79 per 100,000 people as of Saturday, according to the CDC, putting it 10th in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City and New York state. The U.S. average is 63 deaths per 100,000 people, the CDC says.

Behind New York City, at 283 deaths per 100,000 people, the CDC placed the highest death rates ahead of Arizona as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Mississippi, the District of Columbia and New York state.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @curtis_chels

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