April 13 Ariz. COVID-19 weekly update adds 2,777 cases, 142 deaths

Arizona’s coronavirus case and death numbers were lower in the state’s latest weekly report, but with the end of Arizona’s emergency declaration it’s harder to know how hospital levels compare to previous weeks.

Health officials on Wednesday reported 2,777 new COVID-19 cases and 142 new known deaths over the weeklong period ending April 9. 

Just under 2,000 new cases were added from tests done during the past week, state data shows, continuing recent weeks’ lower case reports. Case numbers in recent months are likely not showing the full picture of infections as many more people have been using at-home test kits and may not be reporting their positives to county health departments. 

Reported cases since the pandemic began are at more than 2 million. Known deaths in Arizona have passed 29,800. 

Wednesday marked the seventh of the weekly updates to the state’s data dashboard, instead of daily updates that Arizonans became accustomed to following for the latest data on infections, illnesses and deaths.

The previous week’s update added 6,840 cases and 413 deaths, compared with 10,143 cases (high because of a reporting catch-up) and 385 deaths, 4,566 cases and 336 deaths, 5,153 cases and 457 deaths, 6,549 cases and 382 deaths, and 9,647 cases and 449 deaths the five weeks prior.

This week’s update shows the differences between data reported for the week of April 3-9 and the week of March 27-April 2.

Eddie Irizarry, a test administrator, collects a vial at a saliva COVID-19 testing site, operated by Arizona State University and the Arizona Department of Health Services, on Jan. 26, 2022, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Health officials say moving to weekly updates matches how public health monitors trends and other disease reporting. 

Case numbers have been declining significantly in recent weeks, and public health experts estimate cases of the highly contagious omicron variant peaked in Arizona around mid-January.

The state data dashboard no longer shows key hospitalization information since Gov. Doug Ducey ended the COVID-19 emergency declaration on March 30. State health officials said hospitals aren’t required to report some COVID-19 surveillance data to the state anymore, meaning certain graphs showing weekly hospitalization levels for the disease and bed usage by COVID-19 patients will no longer be updated.

Hospitalizations for the disease had been dropping steadily since late January.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still reports state hospitalization data for Arizona and showed an 11% increase in the seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions from April 4-10 compared with March 28-April 3. Hospital admissions last week were down 92% from the peak seven-day average in early Jan. 2021.

The number of known deaths in the state was at 29,823 as of Wednesday, after passing 29,000 known deaths in the March 30 update, 28,000 deaths in the March 9 update, 27,000 deaths on Feb. 10 and 26,000 deaths on Jan. 28. The state surpassed 25,000 deaths on Jan. 13. Deaths are now reported with a four-week lag. 

Arizona’s overall pandemic death rate since early 2020 is third-highest nationwide.

State data on breakthrough infections 

The state in December began publicly disclosing data on breakthrough COVID-19 infections, and state officials say the data underscores the effectiveness of the vaccine — especially for people with booster doses.

The vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among people not fully vaccinated and boosted. 

Data from February show that 30.2% of cases, 24.9% of hospitalizations and 25.7% of COVID-19 deaths were among fully vaccinated people without a booster, with most of the rest among unvaccinated people. Fully vaccinated people with a booster made up 17.4% of reported cases, 11% of hospitalizations and 9.6% of deaths in January. 

Unvaccinated adults in Arizona had an 4.9 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, 29 times greater risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 and 59 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 in February compared with fully vaccinated people with a booster, according to state data.

Unvaccinated adults had a 3.9 times greater risk of testing positive, 11 times greater risk of hospitalization and 14 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with individuals who were fully vaccinated without a booster.

As of March 23, there had been 1,683 breakthrough deaths in fully vaccinated individuals, according to state health officials’ preliminary data, which works out to a breakthrough death rate of 0.04% among fully vaccinated people.

Less hospital info:Arizona is reducing the amount of COVID-19 hospital data it reports

Case rates and death reports

The omicron variant and the BA.2 version of omicron are still contributing to many of the cases in Arizona, according to results from sequencing labs.

Percent positivity, which refers to the percentage of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, varies somewhat based on how it’s measured. It was high in recent months, a sign of more community spread, but has been gradually decreasing.

For most of December, Arizona’s percent positivity for COVID-19 testing was at 11%-13%, before rising to 22% for the week of Dec. 26, 29% for the week of Jan. 2, 32% for the week of Jan. 9, 34% for the week of Jan. 16, 29% for the week of Jan. 23, 22% for the week of Jan. 30, 16% for the week of Feb. 6, 11% for the week of Feb. 13, 7% for the week of Feb. 20, 4% for the week of Feb. 27, 3% for the week of Mar. 6, 3% for the week of Mar. 13, 3% for the week of Mar. 20, 3% for the week of Mar. 27 and 3% for the week of April 3. The percentages are now for all diagnostic tests conducted, rather than for unique individuals tested, following a change to the state dashboard.

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

Jordan Fezler, a test administrator, waves to those coming in at a saliva COVID-19 testing site, operated by Arizona State University and the Arizona Department of Health Services, on Jan. 26, 2022, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The state’s overall COVID-19 death and case rates since Jan. 21, 2020 still remain among the worst in the country.

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began is 407 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC, putting it third in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average is 296 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

New York City has the highest death rate, at 477 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Mississippi at 417.

Arizona’s first known death from the disease occurred in mid-March 2020.

Many of the reported deaths occurred days or weeks before because of reporting delays and death certificate matching.

A total of 2,016,797 COVID-19 cases had been identified across the state through April 9.

Vaccination update

Arizonans ages five and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and older. Many individuals are eligible for booster doses, too.

The state reported over five million people in Arizona — about 70.5% of the total state population — had received at least one vaccine dose through April 9, with over 4.3 million residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state’s data dashboard now separates out doses administered to Arizona residents versus all doses administered in the state.

Arizona’s rate of fully vaccinated people out of the total population is 61.1%, which is behind the national rate of 65.8%, according to the CDC as of Tuesday.

Out of the vaccine-eligible population, people ages five and older, 65% of those in Arizona are fully vaccinated, compared with 70% at the national level, CDC data shows.

Health experts strongly recommend booster shots for those eligible, especially with the omicron variant spreading. About 44.4% of fully vaccinated Arizonans over the age of 18 had received a booster shot as of Tuesday, below the national rate of 48.7% for that same age group.

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What to know about latest numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 2,016,797, as of April 9.

Cases by county: 1,273,651 in Maricopa; 254,195 in Pima; 132,363 in Pinal; 62,636 in Yuma; 57,364 in Mohave; 47,901 in Yavapai; 43,590 in Coconino; 38,153 in Navajo; 31,415 in Cochise; 22,306 in Apache; 17,190 in Gila; 16,659 in Santa Cruz; 11,957 in Graham; 5,202 in La Paz; and 2,215 in Greenlee, according to state numbers. 

The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Navajo County, followed by Gila, Graham, Apache and Maricopa counties, according to state data. The rate in Navajo County is 33,816 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 24,175 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 53,150 cases and 1,740 confirmed deaths as of Tuesday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 14,856 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including 2,474 in Tucson, 2,280 in Eyman, 2,234 in Yuma, 1,715 in Lewis and 1,169 in Phoenix; 54,755 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 5,008 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Fifty-eight incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 15 additional deaths under investigation.

The race/ethnicity breakdown of cases since the start of the pandemic in 2020 has been 40% white, 29% Hispanic or Latino, 5% American Indian, 4% Black and 2% Asian/Pacific Islander. Race/ethnicity of positive cases since the onset of the pandemic is unknown in 14% of cases, and listed as other race in 6% of cases.

Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, about 21% were younger than 20, 42% were 20-44, 13% were 45-54, 11% were 55-64 and 12% were age 65 or older.

Laboratories had completed 19,077,981 total diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as of April 9, 12.1% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. Percent positivity was at 3% for the week of April 3. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The state Health Department includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) 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, Mayo Clinic officials said. They say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result.

Arizona as of Tuesday had the 11th highest overall case rate in the country since Jan. 21, 2020. Ahead of Arizona in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began are Alaska, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Tennessee, Kentucky, Utah, South Carolina, Guam, West Virginia and New York City, according to the CDC.

Arizona’s infection rate is 27,670 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 24,175 cases per 100,000 people, although the rates in states hard hit early in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April 2020.

Reported deaths in Arizona: 29,823

Deaths by county: 17,079 in Maricopa; 3,802 in Pima; 1,646 in Pinal; 1,434 in Mohave; 1,195 in Yavapai; 1,167 in Yuma; 900 in Navajo; 607 in Apache; 563 in Cochise; 472 in Coconino; 379 in Gila; 228 in Santa Cruz; 176 in Graham; 143 in La Paz; and 32 in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older make up 21,153 of the 29,823 deaths, or 71%. About 16% of deaths were among people 55-64 years old, 8% were 45-54 and 5% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity was unknown for 5% of deaths, 55% of those who died were white, 26% were Hispanic or Latino, 7% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data shows.

The global death toll as of Wednesday was 6,186,301. The U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 986,502, followed by Brazil at 661,741 and India at 521,736, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Arizona’s 29,823 deaths represent about 3% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

Republic reporter Stephanie Innes contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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