Arizona reported 1,154 new COVID-19 cases and 96 new known deaths on Thursday as hospitalizations for the disease continued to drop.

The state’s overall COVID-19 death and case rates since since Jan. 21, 2020, remain among the worst in the country.

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began was 220 deaths per 100,000 people as of Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker, putting it sixth in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average was 155 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, the CDC said.

New York City had the highest death rate, at 351 deaths per 100,000 people. After that followed New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

The state’s case rate since the pandemic began also ranked sixth nationwide as of Wednesday.

Arizona’s seven-day new-case average ranked 31st Wednesday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the CDC.

The state’s daily average rate of new positive cases over the past seven days was 15.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. New York City was first with 47.6 cases per 100,000. The U.S. average for new cases was 19.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

The state’s average daily COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people over the past seven days ranked sixth in the nation as of Wednesday, per the CDC

Arizona’s newly reported 96 deaths brought the known COVID-19 death count to 16,185. The state surpassed 16,000 deaths on Tuesday after passing 15,000 deaths on Feb. 17, 14,000 deaths on Feb. 6 and 13,000 deaths on Jan. 29, just one week after it passed 12,000 and two weeks after 11,000 deaths. The state exceeded 10,000 known deaths on Jan. 9. Arizona’s first known death from the disease occurred in mid-March.

Many of the deaths occurred days or weeks prior, due to reporting delays and death certificate matching.

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In slightly more than one year since the first case was announced in Arizona, a total of 821,108 COVID-19 cases have been identified across the state. February saw relatively lower case reports. 

The Arizona data dashboard shows 87% of all ICU beds and 88% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use Wednesday, with 19% of ICU beds and 12% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 235 ICU beds and 1,045 non-ICU beds were available.

Hospitalizations for the disease have been dropping for over seven weeks but remain at relatively high levels. 

The total number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 1,072 on Wednesday, down from Tuesday’s 1,165 inpatients and far below the record 5,082 inpatients on Jan. 11. By comparison, the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer surge was 3,517 on July 13.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona was at 343 on Wednesday, down from 381 on Tuesday, far below the record high of 1,183 on Jan. 11. During the summer surge in mid-July, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.

Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators tallied 165 on Wednesday, down from 177 on Tuesday and well below the record high 821 reached on Jan. 13. During the summer surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use, with 687 patients.

Tuesday saw 1,154 patients in the emergency room for COVID-19, well below the Dec. 29 single-day record of 2,341 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency departments across the state.

Percent positivity, which refers to the percent of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, has been declining but varies somewhat based on how it’s measured.

Last week, Arizona’s percent positivity was 7% after being at 9% for the two weeks prior, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity. Percent positivity was between 4% and 6% for much of August, September and October, according to state data.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona’s seven-day moving average of percent positives at 3.5% as of Thursday. It shows the state’s percent positivity peaked at 24.2% in December.

A positivity rate of 5% or less is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.

Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for Phase 1A the week of Dec. 14, but the process has moved slowly because of limited vaccine supply. Registration is open in counties for priority or all Phase 1B individuals and in most places for those 65 and older, and the state recently switched to a partly age-based rollout so those 55 and older will start to be eligible at state sites and in some counties.

More than 1.2 million people statewide had received at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday, with about 680,000 people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses, state data show. 

What to know about Thursday’s numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 821,108.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 1,154, or 0.14%, from Wednesday’s 819,954 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services, not by the date the tests were administered. 

Cases by county: 513,035 in Maricopa, 110,072 in Pima, 46,630 in Pinal, 36,516 in Yuma, 21,291 in Mohave, 17,120 in Yavapai, 16,648 in Coconino, 15,689 in Navajo, 11,273 in Cochise, 10,511 in Apache, 7,641 in Santa Cruz, 6,411 in Gila, 5,299 in Graham, 2,412 in La Paz and 560 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Yuma County, followed by Apache, Santa Cruz, Navajo and Graham counties, per state data. The rate in Yuma County is 15,879 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 8,589 cases per 100,000 people as of Wednesday, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 29,794 cases and 1,187 confirmed deaths in total as of Wednesday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal leaders halted weekend lockdowns after Jan. 25, although a stay-at-home order and nightly curfew remained in effect. 

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 12,025 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, including 2,240 in Tucson, 2,008 in Yuma, 2,005 in Eyman, 1,302 in Lewis and 1,163 in Douglas; 43,619 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,690 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Thirty-five incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 19 additional deaths under investigation.

Race/ethnicity is unknown for 18% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but 37% of positive cases have been in white people, 30% Hispanic or Latino, 5% are Native American, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, 16% were younger than 20, 44% were 20-44, 15% were 45-54, 12% were 55-64 and 13% were over age 65.

Laboratories have completed 3,797,616 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19, 14.3% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests had increased since mid-May but began decreasing in July and held steady around 4% for several weeks, per the state. It was at 7% for the last full week. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The Arizona Department of Health Services includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine current infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) are a newer type of COVID-19 diagnostic test that uses 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, the Mayo Clinic says. Depending on the situation, Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result. 

Arizona as of Wednesday had the sixth-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 North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah and Tennessee, according to the CDC.

Arizona’s infection rate is 11,247 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 8,589 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early on in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April.

Reported deaths in Arizona: 16,185 

Deaths by county: 9,223 in Maricopa, 2,247 in Pima, 797 in Yuma, 785 in Pinal, 652 in Mohave, 502 in Navajo, 466 in Yavapai, 392 in Apache, 315 in Coconino, 266 in Cochise, 214 in Gila, 169 in Santa Cruz, 75 in Graham, 72 in La Paz and 10 in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older make up 12,133 of the 16,185 deaths, or 75%. Following that, 15% of deaths were in the 55-64 age group, 6% were 45-54 and 4% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity was unknown for 7% of deaths, 49% of those who died were white, 29% were Hispanic or Latino, 8% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data show.

The global death toll as of Thursday morning was 2,561,992, and the U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 518,459, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona’s death total of 16,185 deaths represents 3.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of Thursday.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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