Arizona surpassed 11,000 known deaths from COVID-19 as the state remains a national hot spot for spread of the virus, with about 9,100 new cases and 185 new known deaths reported on Friday.
The state’s seven-day new-case average again ranked first among all states on Thursday, after ranking first and second last week and this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.
Arizona’s rate of new positive cases over the last seven days was 131.6 cases per 100,000 people, per the CDC. The U.S. average for new cases is 73.8 cases per 100,000 people.
Arizona’s average daily COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people over the last seven days also led the nation as of Thursday, CDC data show.
The state reported more than 17,200 new cases on Jan. 3, the highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began, toppling the state’s previous record from Dec. 8 by nearly 5,000 cases. The record follows the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends.
The Arizona data dashboard shows 92% of all ICU beds and 92% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use Thursday, with 63% of ICU beds and 56% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, there were 143 ICU beds and 672 non-ICU beds available.
Hospitals are experiencing a “surge within a surge,” with signs of worse weeks ahead. Hospital leaders say it’s possible they may need to prioritize medical care with a triage system if COVID-19 continues to spread in Arizona at its current levels.
The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 4,866 on Thursday, below Monday’s record 5,082 inpatients. By comparison, the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer surge was 3,517 on July 13.
The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona was at 1,138 on Thursday, slightly below the record high 1,183 on Monday. During the summer surge in mid-July, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.
Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators tallied 753 on Thursday, a drop from the record high 821 on Wednesday. During the summer surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use with 687 patients.
Thursday saw 2,120 patients in the emergency room for COVID-19, below the Dec. 29 single-day record of 2,341 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency departments across the state.
New cases in Arizona have eclipsed 5,000 for 28 of the past 30 days. Public health experts expect the virus to spread further because of personal contact over the holidays.
Friday’s 9,146 new cases brought the total number of identified COVID-19 cases in the state to 658,186. As of Friday, 11,040 Arizonans are known to have died from the disease, according to the data dashboard from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Percent positivity, which refers to the percent of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, is still near a peak high, which many health experts consider an early indicator of a spike in illnesses.
Last week, Arizona’s percent positivity stood at 22%. For the week prior to that, it was 24%, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity. Percent positivity was at 4% for several weeks during August, September and October, according to state data.
Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona’s seven-day moving average of percent positives at 14.7% as of Friday. It shows the state’s percent positivity peaked at 24.2% last month.
A positivity rate of 5% is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.
Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for Phase 1A the week of Dec. 14, but the process has moved slowly. Registration is open in multiple counties for priority Phase 1B individuals and will open in many places for those 65 and older starting next week. Gov. Doug Ducey said the vaccine will be free for anyone.
What to know about Friday’s numbers
Reported cases in Arizona: 658,186.
Cases since the outbreak began increased by 9,146, or 1.41%, from Thursday’s 649,040 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services, not by the date the tests were administered.
Cases by county: 407,631 in Maricopa, 87,687 in Pima, 36,122 in Pinal, 32,349 in Yuma, 16,397 in Mohave, 14,398 in Yavapai, 13,616 in Coconino, 13,090 in Navajo, 9,444 in Cochise, 8,482 in Apache, 6,950 in Santa Cruz, 5,306 in Gila, 4,276 in Graham, 1,967 in La Paz and 471 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.
The rate of cases per 100,000 people is highest in Yuma County, followed by Santa Cruz, Apache and Navajo counties. The rate in Yuma County is 14,067 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate as of Thursday was 6,918 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.
The Navajo Nation reported 25,952 cases and 892 confirmed deaths in total as of Thursday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal leaders have implemented a stay-at-home lockdown and reinstated weekend curfews due to what officials have called the “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19 in the tribe’s communities.
The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 8,456 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 1,661 in Yuma, 1,612 in Tucson, 1,279 in Eyman and 1,118 in Douglas; 43,218 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,206 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Twenty-eight incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 16 additional deaths under investigation.
Race/ethnicity is unknown for 22% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but 35% of people are white, 29% are Hispanic or Latino, 5% are Native American, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander.
Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, 16% were younger than 20, 45% were 20-44, 15% were 45-54, 12% were 55-64 and 13% were over age 65.
Laboratories have completed 3,173,905 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19, 14.2% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests had increased since mid-May but began decreasing in July and held steady around 4% for several weeks, per the state. It was at 22% last week. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has started including probable cases as 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 another 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.
Arizona as of Thursday had the 10th highest overall case rate in the country since Jan. 21. Ahead of Arizona in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began are North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma, according to the CDC.
Arizona’s infection rate is 8,816 cases per 100,000 people, the CDC said. The national average is 6,918 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early on in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April.
Reported deaths in Arizona: 11,040
Deaths by county: 6,320 in Maricopa, 1,393 in Pima, 614 in Yuma, 478 in Pinal, 431 in Mohave, 389 in Navajo, 308 in Yavapai, 274 in Apache, 244 in Coconino, 189 in Cochise, 165 in Gila, 129 in Santa Cruz, 57 in Graham, 45 in La Paz and four in Greenlee.
People age 65 and older made up 8,222 of the 11,040 deaths, or 74%. Following that, 15% of deaths were in the 55-64 age group, 6% were 45-54 and 5% were 20-44 years old.
While race/ethnicity was unknown for 8% of deaths, 48% of those who died whose race/ethnicity were known were white, 29% were Hispanic or Latino, 9% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data show.
The global death toll as of Friday morning was 1,997,704 and the U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 388,887, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona’s death total of 11,040 deaths represents 2.8% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of Friday.
The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began was 146 per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC, putting it 11th in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average is 115 deaths per 100,000 people, the CDC said.
New York City has the highest death rate, at 307 deaths per 100,000 people. After that follows New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, South Dakota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Louisiana, and Illinois.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.