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Virus Crisis Easing Across Sun Belt But Could Heat Up Again

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

The summer spike in COVID-19 cases across the Sun Belt is easing after two months that brought more than 35,000 deaths to states stretching from California to Florida.

It remains to be seen whether the outbreak will intensify again. Seven of the nine states, including Arizona, along the nation’s southern and western rim are seeing drops in three important areas: new deaths, new cases and the percentage of positive tests. Alabama is the only state in the region to see all three rising while Mississippi’s death rate has gone up.

Arizona health officials Tuesday reported 507 new coronavirus cases and 15 more deaths. It’s a continuation of a flattening of infection rates in recent weeks as fatalities, hospitalizations and ICU bed occupancy has dropped since a major spike in July. Still, the state’s total cases since the pandemic began have topped 202,000 and more than 5,000 people in Arizona have died. The state’s percentage of positive tests has dropped but is still more than double what health experts recommend for widespread reopening. Coconino County’s positive test rate is 8.1% while Yavapai County’s is 5%.

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