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With nearly 4,000 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 310,000 as of Wednesday, Nov. 25, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 532 new cases today, has seen 37,518 of the state’s 310,850 confirmed cases.

With nine new deaths reported yesterday, a total of 6,524 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 679 deaths in Pima County, according to the Nov. 24 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide continues to climb upward as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly, putting stress on Arizona’s hospitals. ADHS reported that as of Nov. 24, 2,217 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since July 31. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13; it hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27. 

A total of 1,593 people visited emergency rooms on Nov. 24 with COVID symptoms, the highest that number has been since July 15. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 531 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Nov. 24, the highest that number has been since Aug. 7. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13 and hit a subsequent low of 114 on Sept. 22. 

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,452 cases, according to an Nov. 23 report from the Pima County Health Department. (Numbers in this report are subject to revision.)

Pima County is seeing a dramatic rise in cases in recent weeks. For the week ending Oct. 31, 1,348 cases were reported; for the week ending Nov. 7, 2,122 cases were reported; and for the week ending Nov. 14, 2,561 cases were reported; and for the week ending Nov. 21, 2,575 cases were reported.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry noted last week that the county had seen 4,620 cases in the first 17 days in November.

“For the first 17 days in July, the worst month of COVID-19 case increases to date, there were 5,057 cases,” Huckleberry said in a Nov. 17 memo. “Therefore, we are on pace to exceed the total number of monthly COVID-19 infections in our previous worst month, July.”

COVID-related deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 but are on the rise. There were three deaths in the week ending Oct 10, one in week ending Oct. 17, six in the week ending Oct. 24; 10 in the week ending Oct. 31 and five in the week ending Nov. 7.

Hospitalization admission peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but those numbers have been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Oct. 24, 43 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 31, 67 people were admitted; in the week ending Nov. 7, 90 people were admitted; and in the week ending Nov. 14, 126 people were admitted.

Pima County enacts “voluntary curfew” to encourage people to stay home at night

The Pima County Health Department issued a voluntary curfew Monday as the county remains in a state of substantial spread of coronavirus, according to a media release from the department. 

Individuals are asked to observe the curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day until Dec. 31 after Pima County reported its highest daily case count of 878 on Sunday. 

The week of Nov. 16 saw the highest weekly case count of 2,575, and now the health department is asking all Pima County residents to stay indoors during the curfew, “except those individuals who have no fixed address,” according to the release. 

The health department says residents are allowed to leave home for essential activities like attending work or obtaining food or medical care. 

"It is necessary to take this additional step due to the accelerating nature of the pandemic in our community," Pima County Health Director Theresa Cullen said in the release. "While we appreciate the efforts of the majority of residents to slow the spread of the virus, a segment of the population continues to participate in social gatherings and resist the use of masks which exacerbates an already critical situation." 

In addition to voluntarily adhering to the curfew, the health department is asking residents to continue wearing a mask, social distancing and frequently sanitizing.

 

Area high schools suspend remainder of football season

The superintendent of Tucson Unified School District announced the remainder of the district’s football season has been suspended today after considering guidance from the Pima County Administrator’s Office and public health recommendations from the Pima County Health Department, according to an email announcement. 

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo announced all winter sports practices and after-school performing arts rehearsals “are temporarily suspended and will be revisited on December 7th,” according to the email. 

“Please know that Tucson Unified is not the only district to take this action as all southern Arizona school districts have also canceled the remainder of their respective game schedules which leaves our schools without opponents to play,” Trujillo said in the email. “I want to thank all of the hard-working coaches, athletes, and supportive parents that worked so hard to make this shortened season possible.”

TUSD initially allowed full-contact football practice after parents signed a waiver of release of all future claims against the district for any COVID-19 related damages, Trujillo said in a press conference on Nov. 12. 

At the press conference, the superintendent said the district’s football games wouldn’t have public attendance, transportation was to be provided by parents and communal areas such as locker rooms and showers were off-limits.

Now, winter contact sports like soccer and basketball will also be postponed until further notice.

 

UA men’s basketball team cancels season opener

The University of Arizona announced yesterday that the UA men’s basketball team home opener, originally scheduled for tonight, had to be canceled after a person in the NAU basketball program tested positive for COVID.

The teams will work to reschedule the game, according to a press release from the Athletics Department.

UA’s next game, against Grambling State, is scheduled at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, at McKale Center.

 

UA will return to remote classes after fall break

In its final week of in-person instruction for the fall semester, the University of Arizona is reporting slightly elevated COVID-19 case numbers as it finishes its pre-fall break testing blitz this week, UA President Robert C. Robbins shared in a news conference Monday, Nov. 23. 

From Nov. 12 through Nov. 21, UA found 126 positive coronavirus cases after administering 11,504 tests for a positivity rate of 1.1%, an increase from the 0.9% positivity rate the university reported the previous 10-day period. 

On Nov. 9, the university began its "testing blitz" to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as travel is likely to increase over the holiday season. Testing will end on Nov. 25, and students have been asked to register for an appointment-only test after completing a survey with their traveling plans. 

If students travel outside the Tucson area over fall break, the university is asking them to complete the semester outside the area or remotely online. Those who don't travel can complete the semester from their student residences. 

“Case numbers are rising here in Arizona and nationwide. I strongly encourage everyone to exercise extreme caution over this break. This means don’t travel. If you don’t have to, don’t do it.” Robbins said. “If you do travel, including going home from your student residence, quarantine after arrival.” 

All students will complete the semester remotely when classes resume Nov. 30. In January, the university plans to return to stage two of its reentry plan with up to 50 students attending classes in person. 

However, Robbins said if the current surge in COVID-19 cases continues over winter break, “we’re gonna have to go back and start all over like we did with this term.”

 

Get tested: Pima County opening new sites alongside existing spots for free COVID testing

Pima County offers 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 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