2.22 covid.JPG

With 1,507 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 809,000 as of Monday, Feb. 22, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 138 new cases today, has seen 108,479 of the state’s 809,474 confirmed cases.

As the national death toll topped a half-million people, a total of 15,502 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,149 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 22 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,590 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 21. That’s less than a third of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 1,117 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 21 with COVID symptoms, less than half of the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had peaked during the summer wave at 2,008 on July 7, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.

A total of 478 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 21, down from a peak of 1,183 set on Jan. 11. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22, 2020.

How to get a vaccine

Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 65 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site opening at the University of Arizona began appointments last week. The new site follows the state’s current vaccine eligibility, which includes those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers, according to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.

As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations will go through ADHS’s website. Online registration will be available at podvaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

Pima County expecting delayed vaccine shipments this week

After the initial announcement Pima County would only receive 12,500 COVID-19 vaccines last week, the county health department announced on Friday they expect to receive another 4,600 doses.

The 17,100 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be coupled with the doses that were delayed last week due to harsh winter weather conditions across the U.S. for a total of 33,400 doses.

Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said this week’s 16,300 delayed doses were stuck at a FedEx facility in Memphis, Tenn., and will arrive by Wednesday this week.

The 17,100 doses allocated to the county from the state are expected to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday, Cullen said.

The county now only has insight into the allocation of Moderna vaccines, as the state health department has taken over all Pfizer allotments.

“When we opened up the allotment tool on Wednesday night, we got allotted 12,500,” Cullen said on Friday. “At that point, we thought we were canceling almost 4,800 appointments. Today, lo and behold, out of the blue, we get a text that says, ‘Oh, there's 4,600 more doses coming your way.’”

The county now expects to complete 91% of scheduled immunizations from last week and this week due to the surprise increase in doses. But last week, between 1,500 and 2,000 individuals saw their vaccine appointments canceled, according to Cullen. Most of the canceled appointments were for first-time doses.

Cullen said the county’s PODs, or points of distribution, that experienced cancellations were mainly the ones that distribute the Moderna vaccine: Tucson Medical Center, Tucson Convention Center and Banner North.

“Our understanding is that the majority of those cancellations have been what people have called sprinkled. So they've been rescheduled for this coming week, the vast majority of them, and they've been sprinkled on different days. Remember, that vaccine was always available, it was allotted, it just wasn't on the ground because of the weather,” Cullen explained.

However, while Cullen expects 91% of appointments will be fulfilled, the uncertainty of the vaccines’ delivery time remains.

“It may turn out that there are additional cancellations and reschedules that are needed,” she said. “If that vaccine does not get here, for instance, before Monday morning, I don't know what the situation will be. It depends on what's happening on the ground with the weather.”

Due to last week’s increase in Moderna vaccines, Cullen expects the county will hold up to four mobile vaccination clinics targeted to serve vulnerable populations this upcoming weekend.

While she appreciates the increased Moderna allocation, Cullen says the county’s vaccine infrastructure can handle more doses than the state is allotting.

“Right now, when we're at 17,100, you know, we talked about being made whole—that's still not where we needed to be,” she said. “We needed to be about 17,800 to be at a minimum. Obviously, we need more vaccine. Our infrastructure is designed to do much more than that.”

As many appointments were canceled and mobile PODs for the socially vulnerable were postponed last week, the new state-run University of Arizona POD remains on track with vaccine delivery.

“Ideally, we always anticipated that there would be a high-flow, high-efficiency point of distribution, and that is in our acceleration plan, so we need that,” Cullen said. “I don't want to take away from that need, but at the same time, we know that is not for everybody. We know the racial and ethnic breakdown of who is usually able to go to these large PODs does not necessarily reflect the community. So we need both.”

Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing

After the state agreed to provide additional funding for testing centers for at least two more weeks, Pima County is continuing to offer a number of testing centers around town.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center (2805 E. Ajo Way) the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road) and downtown (88 E. Broadway).

The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

In addition, the Pima County Health Department, Pima Community College and Arizona State University have partnered to create new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites at three Pima Community College locations. At the drive-thru sites, COVID-19 testing will be offered through spit samples instead of nasal canal swabs. Each site will conduct testing from 9 a.m. to noon, and registration is required in advance. Only patients 5 years or older can be tested.

Schedule an appointment at these or other pop-up sites at pima.gov/covid19testing.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill. To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen