Arizona COVID-19 weekly update adds 5,490 cases, 41 deaths

COVID-19 metrics in Arizona continue to creep upwards, with the state’s latest report showing a higher number of new cases from the first week of May and a greater portion of tests coming back positive for the virus than seen since February.

Health officials on Wednesday reported a higher 5,490 new COVID-19 cases and 41 new known deaths over the weeklong period ending May 7. 

Cases reported from tests done during the past week were the highest since February, state data shows, though still far lower than months prior to that. Case numbers in recent months likely are not showing the full picture of infections as many more people have used at-home test kits and may not report positive results to county health departments. 

Reported cases since the pandemic began are at more than 2 million. Known deaths in Arizona exceed 30,200. 

Wednesday marked the 11th 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 3,911 cases and 238 deaths, compared with 2,350 cases and 99 deaths, 2,377 cases and 29 deaths (low because of a processing error), 2,777 cases and 142 deaths, 6,840 cases and 413 deaths, 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 nine weeks prior.

This week’s update shows the differences between data reported for the week of May 1-7 and the week of April 24-30.

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

Case numbers generally were relatively lower 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 are no longer required to report some COVID-19 surveillance data to the state, meaning certain graphs showing weekly hospitalization levels for the disease and bed usage by COVID-19 patients are no longer updated.

At the time that data reporting stopped, hospitalizations for the disease had dropped steadily since late January.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still reports state hospitalization data for Arizona and showed a 22.7% increase in the seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions from May 2-8 compared with April 25-May 1. Hospital admissions last week were down 92.4% from the peak seven-day average in early January 2021.

The number of known deaths in the state was at 30,230 as of Wednesday, after passing 30,000 known deaths in the May 4 update, 29,000 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 March show that 25.7% of cases, 27.1% of hospitalizations and 22% 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 24.6% of reported cases, 20% of hospitalizations and 25.7% of deaths in March. 

Unvaccinated adults in Arizona had a 4.3 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, 13 times greater risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 and 19 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 in March compared with fully vaccinated people with a booster, according to state data.

Unvaccinated adults had a 5.2 times greater risk of testing positive, 7.4 times greater risk of hospitalization and 13 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with individuals who were fully vaccinated without a booster.

As of April 20, there had been 1,867 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. 

Case rates and death reports

The omicron variant and other versions 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 winter months, a sign of more community spread. It’s recently been much lower, but with some upward trends in the past couple weeks.

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, 3% for the week of April 3, 4% for the week of April 10, 5% for the week of April 17, 6% for the week of April 24 and 9% for the week of May 1. 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.

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 414 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 299 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

New York City has the highest death rate, at 479 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Mississippi at 418.

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 2,030,925 COVID-19 cases were identified across the state through May 7.

Vaccination update

Arizonans ages 5 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna vaccine is approved for those 18 and older. The FDA has approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on a more limited basis for people 18 and older. Many individuals are eligible for booster doses, too.

The state reported about 5.1 million people in Arizona — about 71% of the total state population — had received at least one vaccine dose through May 7, with about 4.4 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 61.7%, which is behind the national rate of 66.3%, according to the CDC as of Tuesday.

Out of the vaccine-eligible population, people ages five and older, 65.6% of those in Arizona are fully vaccinated, compared with 70.5% at the national level, CDC data shows.

Health experts strongly recommend booster shots for those eligible, especially with the omicron variant spreading. About 45.4% of fully vaccinated Arizonans over the age of 18 had received a booster shot as of Tuesday, below the national rate of 49.6% for that same age group.

What to know about latest numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 2,030,925, as of May 7.

Cases by county: 1,283,590 in Maricopa; 255,688 in Pima; 132,748 in Pinal; 62,751 in Yuma; 57,631 in Mohave; 48,293 in Yavapai; 44,091 in Coconino; 38,394 in Navajo; 31,614 in Cochise; 22,540 in Apache; 17,398 in Gila; 16,683 in Santa Cruz; 12,051 in Graham; 5,227 in La Paz; and 2,226 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, Apache, Santa Cruz, Graham and Coconino counties, according to state data. The rate in Navajo County is 34,030 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 24,652 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 53,603 cases and 1,769 confirmed deaths as of Tuesday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 14,903 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including 2,472 in Tucson, 2,279 in Eyman, 2,235 in Yuma, 1,735 in Lewis and 1,200 in Phoenix; 55,560 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 5,021 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Fifty-eight incarcerated people in Arizona are 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 is 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 19,368,861 total diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as of May 7, 12% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. Percent positivity was at 9% for the week of May 1, higher than recent weeks. 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 13th 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 Rhode Island, Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah, South Carolina, Guam, New York City, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Florida, according to the CDC.

Arizona’s infection rate is 27,827 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 24,652 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: 30,230

Deaths by county: 17,326 in Maricopa; 3,850 in Pima; 1,666 in Pinal; 1,454 in Mohave; 1,212 in Yavapai; 1,181 in Yuma; 909 in Navajo; 614 in Apache; 573 in Cochise; 478 in Coconino; 381 in Gila; 232 in Santa Cruz; 177 in Graham; 144 in La Paz; and 33 in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older make up 21,428 of the 30,230 deaths, or 71%. About 16% of deaths were among people 55-64 years old, 8% were 45-54 and 6% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity was unknown for 4% of deaths, 56% of those who died were white, 27% 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 6,256,280. The U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 998,109, followed by Brazil at 664,624 and India at 524,157, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Arizona’s 30,230 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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