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Arizona’s COVID-19 infection rate is back at winter surge levels

Arizona’s COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise to levels not seen since the winter surge, and the state last week averaged more than 2,000 cases per day.

In November, when cases began to rise at the start of the state’s second surge, Arizona saw trends similar to what it is seeing now: The number of cases, hospitalizations and percent of tests coming back positive for COVID so far this month mirror numbers seen prior to the winter surge that inundated Arizona hospitals. 

Arizona’s seven-day case average is 2,359 cases, and 13.4% of all COVID-19 tests are registering positive. The last time the state saw similar positive test rates was in late November, when the state was reporting 3,700 cases a day. 

Two weeks later Arizona would have the highest rate of COVID spread in the nation. Arizona also recently reported it’s highest single day total of new COVID cases since January, with 3,112 confirmed cases on Aug. 2.

Deaths have been relatively low in Arizona but they too are now starting to see an increase as COVID-19 cases continue to increase. The state has averaged 19.6 daily deaths over the past week compared to 7.7 two weeks ago. 

Hospital bed usage by COVID-19 patients are seeing a steady increase, with 20% of all adult intensive care unit beds in the state being used by novel coronavirus patients. Two weeks ago, only 16% were COVID-19 patients, and only 11% were four weeks ago. In the past month, in-patient bed usage has seen a 114% increase in use by COVID-19 patients. 

Emergency rooms are filling up, as well. 

Since the start of the pandemic, emergency room beds are being used up by the most COVID-positive patients ever, with 64% of all ER beds in the state in use. 

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In the past four weeks, ventilator use by COVID-19 patients has jumped 137%.

“Like many of you, I’m looking with concern at daily updates to the ADHS COVID-19 data dashboard,” Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ said in a blog post Friday. Christ wrote that 89% of July’s cases were from unvaccinated individuals. 

“COVID-19 is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Christ said. “If you are basing your decision to not be vaccinated on social media claims, I urge you to seek your doctor’s advice.” 

Almost 46% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated against the virus, and 54% have received at least one dose. 

However, local doctors and pediatricians have also been urging Gov. Doug Ducey to rescind mask bans put in place, saying that masking and other mitigation measures are instrumental in fighting off the spread of COVID-19. 

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and many others have shown that masks are effective at blocking the spread of airborne illnesses. Masking is also one of the key effective ways to prevent the spread and transmission of the highly transmissible Delta variant. 

One study by a group of British scientists found that the Delta variant is 225% more transmissible than the original SARS-COV-2 strain that kicked off the global pandemic in early 2020. Another recent study by Chinese researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that people infected with the Delta variant had 1,000 times more copies of the infection in their lungs than those with the original virus. 

Transmission of the new variant only takes mere seconds if a person is not careful. 

Arizona reported 2,191 new cases August 9, and over 948,000 people have been infected in the state since the start of the pandemic. Over 18,300 have lost their lives to the virus in Arizona. 

Anyone seeking a vaccination can find vaccine information online for Maricopa County here and statewide here.

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This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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