March 9 Ariz. COVID-19 weekly update reports 6,549 cases, 382 deaths

Arizona’s COVID-19 reports continue to show moderate case counts and hospitalizations, although death numbers remain high, according to the state’s weekly data update.

On Wednesday, health officials reported 6,549 new COVID-19 cases and 382 new known deaths over the weeklong period ending March 5.

Total reported cases since the pandemic began are at nearly 2 million, and known deaths in Arizona have passed 28,000.

Wednesday marked the second 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 9,647 cases and 449 deaths.

This week’s update shows the differences between data reported for the week of Feb. 27-March 5 and the week of Feb. 20-26.

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

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

Hospitalizations for the disease have been dropping steadily since late January but are still relatively high.

Over the past week, a daily average of about 810 patients were hospitalized across Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19, continuing a steady decrease over roughly the past six weeks. An average of about 182 ICU beds were available across the state.

The number of known deaths in the state was at 28,090 as of Wednesday, after passing 27,000 known deaths on Feb. 10 and 26,000 deaths on Jan. 28. The state surpassed 25,000 deaths on Jan. 13.

Arizona’s overall pandemic death rate since early 2020 is tied for 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 January show that 43.2% of cases, 31.5% of hospitalizations and 28.6% of COVID-19 deaths were among fully vaccinated people without a booster, with nearly all the rest among unvaccinated people. Fully vaccinated people with a booster made up 2.8% of reported cases, 1.9% of hospitalizations and 1.6% of deaths.

Unvaccinated adults in Arizona had an 11 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, 67 times greater risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 and 180 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 in January compared with fully vaccinated people with a booster, according to state data.

Unvaccinated adults had a 1.3 times greater risk of testing positive, 4.1 times greater risk of hospitalization and 7.2 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with individuals who were fully vaccinated without a booster.

As of Feb. 23, there had been 1,034 breakthrough deaths in fully vaccinated individuals, according to state health officials, which works out to a breakthrough death rate of 0.02% among fully vaccinated people.

Case rates and death reports

The omicron variant remains overwhelmingly dominant 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’s been high in recent weeks, 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 and 5% for the week of Feb 27. 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 380 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tying it for third in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York states. The US average is 288 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

New York City has the highest death rate, at 475 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Mississippi at 408 and Alabama at 380.

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 1,987,318 COVID-19 cases had been identified across the state through March 5.

Hospitalizations still declining

The Arizona data dashboard shows an average of 89% of all ICU beds and 93% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use this week, with 12% of ICU beds and 9% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients . Statewide, an average of 182 ICU beds and 621 non-ICU beds were available each day this week.

The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at a daily average of 813 reported so far this week, lower than previous weeks. During the week of Jan 25, the daily average was 3,432 inpatients. The record was a daily average of 4,955 during the week of Jan 5, 2021.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona has continued to drop and was at a daily average of 200 this week, compared with about 270 the previous two weeks. The record high was about 1,132 ICU patients during the week of Jan. 12, 2021.

Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators were reported at 80 this week, after sharp drops in February. The record-high daily average of 799 was for the week of Jan. 12, 2021. During the summer 2020 surge, mid-July was the peak for ventilator use, with a daily average of 646 patients.

This week’s report shows an average of 1,169 patients in Arizona emergency rooms for COVID-19. The record high came the week of Jan. 11, when an average of 2,325 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients were seen daily in emergency departments across the state.

Vaccination update

Arizonans age 5 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 just over 5 million people in Arizona — about 69.8% of the total state population — had received at least one vaccine dose through March 5, with about 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 60.3%, which is behind the national rate of 65.1%, according to the CDC as of Tuesday.

Out of the vaccine-eligible population, people age 5 and older, 64.1% of those in Arizona are fully vaccinated, compared with 69.3% at the national level, CDC data shows.

Health experts strongly recommend booster shots for those eligible, especially with the omicron variant spreading. About 42.9% of fully vaccinated Arizonans over the age of 18 had received a booster shot as of Tuesday, below the national rate of 47.5% for that same age group.

What to know about latest numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 1,987,318, as of March 5.

Cases by county: 1,253,285 in Maricopa; 250.949 in Pima; 129.241 in Pinal; 62,297 in Yuma; 57,067 at Mohave; 47,542 at Yavapai; 43,213 in Coconino; 37,838 in Navajo; 31,110 at Cochise; 22,031 in Apache; 16,889 in Gila; 16,580 at Santa Cruz; 11,918 at Graham; 5,150 in La Paz; and 2,208 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 Graham, Apache, Gila and Maricopa counties, according to state data. The rate in Navajo County is 33,537 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the US average rate since the pandemic began is 23,845 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 52,663 cases and 1,654 confirmed deaths as of Tuesday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 14,838 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including 2,474 in Tucson, 2,280 in Eyman, 2,232 in Yuma, 1,703 in Lewis and 1,167 in Phoenix; 53,794 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 4,992 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Fifty-seven incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 16 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, 43% were 20-44, 13% were 45-54, 11% were 55-64 and 12% were age 65 or older.

Laboratories had completed 18,462,184 total diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as of March 5, 12.3% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. Percent positivity was at 5% for the week of Feb. 27. 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 10th 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, Tennessee, Utah, Kentucky, South Carolina , West Virginia and Arkansas, according to the CDC.

Arizona’s infection rate is 27,213 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 23,845 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: 28,090

Deaths by county: 15,855 in Maricopa; 3,663 in pima; 1.549 in Pinals; 1,388 at Mohave; 1,143 in Yavapai; 1.135 in Yuma; 854 in Navajo; 586 in Apache; 540 in Cochise; 456 in Coconino; 359 in Gila; 226 in Santa Cruz; 172 in Graham; 133 in La Paz; and 31 in Greenlee.

People age 65 and older make up 19,812 of the 28,090 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 6% of deaths, 53% 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 6,017,649. The US had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 962,074, followed by Brazil at 653,134 and India at 515,355, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Arizona’s 28,090 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.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

Comments are closed.