Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, June 10: Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Surpass 29K; Death Toll Reaches 1,095; Hospitals Remain Under Pressure; Wildfires Burn North of Tucson

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona surpassed 29,000 as of Wednesday, June 10, with another jump of 1,556 new cases reported this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had 3,350 of the state's 29,852 confirmed cases.

A total of 1,095 people have died after contracting the virus, including 216 in Pima County, according to the report.



In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 15,282.

Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.



Following the end of Gov. Doug Ducey's stay-at-home order on May 15, Arizona hospitals continue to see a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, 1,274 Arizonans were hospitalized. There are 413 COVID patients in ICU units and 846 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 9, according to the report.
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Banner Health's chief clinical officer Marjorie Bessel hosted a special briefing about the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID hospitalizations in Arizona on Friday, June 5. Bessel warned that if current trends continue, Banner will soon need to exercise its surge plan to increase ICU capacity. Bessel highlighted a steep increase of COVID-19 patients on ventilators: On June 4, Banner’s Arizona hospitals had 116 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, up from roughly 15 a month prior.

When Ducey lifted Arizona's stay-at-home order on May 16, he noted that CDC gating criteria included two weeks of falling cases or a two weeks decreasing positive cases as a percentage of total tests. Total cases continue to rise, as does the number of positive cases as a percentage of total tests. On May 17, the percentage of positive tests to total tests was 6 percent; on May 24, it was 9 percent; on May 31, it was 12 percent, according to figure on the ADHS website.

At a June 4 press conference, Ducey said he and Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ anticipated the current increase in positive COVID-19 cases because testing has “dramatically increased” within the state. Christ downplayed the alarm about the recent increase in cases, which some have attributed to the end of the stay-at-home order on May 15, saying “as people come back together, we know there will be transmissions of COVID-19.”


While they admitted new cases are to be expected when people begin to interact again, Ducey and Christ said their main focus was to ensure that hospitals had the capacity for an increase in cases. They reported that the current use of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators were all within capacity last week.

“The fact that we were going to focus on having more tests means we were going to have more cases,” Ducey said. “We anticipated that. What we wanted to do was to be prepared for this.”

Meanwhile, Christ wrote on the ADHS website on Saturday, June 6, that the state had been miscalculating the percentage of available bed space in hospitals by counting potential "surge beds" that could be brought into use as already filled. Christ said the error had been caught and would not be repeated moving forward.

In other news:

• Fire crews are currently battling two blazes that have each burned more than 1,000 acres north of Tucson: the Bighorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Fire in the Tortolita Mountains. Lightning storms caused both fires, which are growing worse thanks to gusty weather and high temperatures.

The Bighorn Fire ignited on the evening of June 5, burning across the Pusch Ridge in clear view of Oro Valley. The fire grew from 200 acres on June 6 to more than 2,556 acres on June 9. Catalina State Park has been closed and the Arizona Emergency Information Network says the following trails may be impacted by the fire: Romero Canyon, Pusch Peak, Pima Canyon, Finger Rock and Ventana Canyon. Approximately 100 fire personnel and multiple helicopters are fighting the Bighorn Fire, which is 10 percent contained as of the June 9 evening update.

The Tortolita Fire also started on June 5 and quickly spread to an estimated 3,300 acres. More than ninety fire personnel are fighting the Tortolita Fire. According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, parts of Cochise Spring Road have been closed. The Tortolita Fire is two miles from the Cochise Spring area, west of Tortolita and Christopher Ranch, east of Marana. There are no evacuations at this time. The fire is 25 percent contained as of the evening of June 9.

Fire crews remind the public that drones are prohibited over the fire area, as firefighting aircraft are busy and must be grounded in drones' presence. On June 5 a drone incursion resulted in "an investigation with the drone operator being issued a violation notice."

• Gov. Doug Ducey lifted Arizona's curfew via Twitter Monday. Ducey had declared the curfew Sunday, May 31, after protests in Tucson and the Phoenix area turned into riots and looting sprees. Protestors gathered for several demonstrations in Tucson despite the heat and the curfew order during the week. The protests here and across the nation were triggered by the killing of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as the man gasped for air and said he couldn't breathe. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired and now faces charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while three other officers who watched as Floyd was held down were also fired and face charges of aiding and abetting murder. Protests across the nations have continued to spread.

• The Tucson City Council voted to study whether city services were being delivered equitably in the community, as well as to move forward with a climate action plan to encourage sustainability. They also approved the hiring of a "Housing First Director" to battle homelessness as well as new social workers. More on last night's council meeting later on The Range today.

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