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Half Of Arizona Counties Seeing Substantial Virus Spread

Associated Press

Half of the counties in Arizona are seeing substantial spread of COVID-19, state health officials said Thursday while reporting more than 5,800 new cases and 147 more deaths throughout the state.

Weekly metrics released by the Arizona Department of Health Services listed eight counties in southern and eastern Arizona, including Pima, with a substantial number of cases. Arizona’s other seven counties, including Maricopa, remained classified as moderate.

The metrics were created during Arizona’s summer coronavirus surge to gauge when businesses would be allowed to reopen, but there’s no requirement for closures now that the numbers are again bleak. The metrics are also an optional guide for school administrators to make decisions about partially or fully allowing in-person instruction.

Gov. Doug Ducey has resisted a return to business closures and a stay-home order he imposed in the early stages of the outbreak, saying it’s up to people to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread. He reiterated that view Wednesday, saying “we are doing everything that we can.”

Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s top health official, has advised people to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and try to stay outside whenever socializing with people with whom they don’t live.

Arizona State University announced Thursday it won’t have a spring break in 2021 in an effort to tamp down on trips and parties where the virus could spread. Northern Arizona University has also canceled spring break, and University of Arizona is spreading the days off throughout the semester, the Arizona Republic reported.

Officials say Arizona has seen a total of 435,036 confirmed cases and 7,677 deaths since March. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The state health agency’s dashboard shows Apache, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Navajo, Pima, Santa Cruz and Yavapai counties now experiencing substantial coronavirus spread.

Arizona on Wednesday had reported 108 additional deaths, and the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose to 64.1 from 30.7 on Dec. 2.

In addition, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased to 3,884 on Wednesday while available hospital beds shrank to 7%, a low during the pandemic.

“Oftentimes we get told, especially in our staffing meetings, that we have A, B and C patients waiting for rooms,” Eddy De La Torre, an intensive care nurse at a Phoenix-area hospital, told “They can be waiting for a couple hours.”