Arizona Reports 2,970 More COVID-19 Cases, Most In 6 Months
Arizona on Thursday reported 2,970 additional COVID-19 cases, the most reported in a single day in the past six months, as the number of virus patients occupying hospital beds continued to climb.
The climbing cases have prompted colleges and universities to impose renewed mask mandates and a plea from hospitals in northwestern Arizona for more people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Along with reporting over 2,000 additional cases for the ninth day so far this month, the state also reported six more virus deaths as the pandemic totals increased to 955,767 cases and 18,412 deaths.
The last time Arizona reported more cases on a single day was 4,381 on Feb. 9.
All three of the state’s public universities announced Wednesday that they were again requiring masks to be worn in classrooms and most other indoor settings. On Thursday, the state’s largest community college district and a second large district did the same.
The Maricopa County Community College District, which has 10 colleges across metro Phoenix that serve over 168,000 students annually, said its decision is allowed by state law. Pima Community College, which has five campuses in the Tucson area and had nearly 40,000 students in 2019-2020 school year, said it was following guidance issued by federal, state and local health agencies.
Arizona State University had a public dispute with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in June prompted by the university’s decision to require unvaccinated students to be regularly tested for the virus and wear masks. The governor blocked the policy by an executive order applying to public colleges and universities that was later added into law in the state budget.
But unlike a budget provision banning K-12 schools from requiring masks to be worn, the budget does not ban universities from imposing universal mask mandates. Some school districts are openly defying the new law because it does not take effect until late next month, although it contains a retroactivity clause.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks from 1,424 new cases on July 27 to 2,450 new cases on Tuesday.
There were 1,527 virus patients occupying hospital beds as of Wednesday, a level last seen in February as the winter surge wound down, the state’s dashboard reported.
The dashboard also reported the administration of 28,947 additional vaccine doses.
While the daily reports of additional cases and hospitalizations rose steadily in July and so far in August, they remain below numbers seen during the surges last summer and last winter. Deaths are far fewer than the previous surges.
In Mohave County, the county health director and the CEOs of the area’s four major hospitals took the rare step of holding a joint news conference urging people to get vaccinated.
The heads of Havasu Regional Medical Center, Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, Kingman Regional Medical Center and Valley View Medical Center said unvaccinated people make up over 90% of their COVID-19 patients.
“We are again asking the community out there to reconsider getting vaccinated,” said Feliciano Jiron, Valley Medical Center CEO. “Work with others around you that may need help and your neighbors and friends that may not understand. Have some of these conversations with them.”
Mohave County has among the lowest vaccination rates among Arizona’s 15 counties at just 35% of the population getting at least one shot compared with 53% statewide and nearly 60% nationally. Only 58% of Mohave County residents over age 65 who are more at risk of serious illness are vaccinated, compared with 89% statewide.
In contrast, Pima County has vaccinated 59% of its population and more than 93% of those over age 65.
All four Mohave County hospital systems have asked federal officials to deploy teams of nurses to help it deal with a surge of patients, according state health officials. The state Health Services Department is working to get the federal government to fill the request, spokesman Steve Elliott said.
There are already 15 professionals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deployed to Mohave County to run infusion centers providing monoclonal antibody therapy, Kingman Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Teri Williams said. The therapy can reduce the length of COVID-19 symptoms and cut the risk of severe illness requiring hospitalization.
Kingman Regional had 154 patients in all on Thursday and was treating 25 people with COVID-19, six of them in intensive care, Williams said. Those patients are more labor-intensive to care for and drain resources from the hospital.
“When you get a large influx of people with COVID and this has been happened for 18 months, hospital staff are not only exhausted,” Williams said. “We just don’t have enough staff to take care of them as well as other patients that need hospital care.”