Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Tuesday, Oct. 20: More Than 1K New Cases Today; UA Increases Number of In-Person Classes; Total AZ Cases Close in on 233K; Free Testing Available

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With 1,040 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 233,000 as of Tuesday, Oct. 20, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 27,019 of the state’s 232,937 confirmed cases.

With seven new deaths yesterday, a total of 5,837 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 634 deaths in Pima County, according to the Oct. 20 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases has declined from July peaks but has ticked upward in recent weeks. ADHS reported that as of Oct. 19, 777 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since Aug. 28, when 812 people were hospitalized. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13.

A total of 747 people visited emergency rooms on Oct. 19 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 170 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Oct. 19. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,453 cases, according to an Oct. 16 report from the Pima County Health Department.

After a bump following the return of UA students, cases on a week-to-week basis are on the decline. For the week ending Sept. 19, 1,225 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 26, 596 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 3, 523 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 10, 466 cases were reported.

Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 to 10 in the week ending Sept. 5, one in the week ending Sept. 12, three in the week ending Sept. 19, four in the week ending Sept. 26 and three in the week ending Oct. 3.

Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but it has been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Sept. 12, 24 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 19, 17 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 26, 13 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 3, 20 patients were admitted; and in the week ending Oct. 10, 24 people were admitted. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)

UA increases number of in-person classes as campus-area cases remain low

The University of Arizona will allow more students to return to campus this week as metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus remain low, UA President Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference Monday, Oct. 19.

Continuing phase two of its reopening plan, the university will allow classes of 50 or fewer to return the week of Oct. 26, raising last week’s maximum of 30 students.

From Oct. 8-17, UA found 44 positive coronavirus cases after administering 6,867 tests for a positivity rate of 0.6%, the same rate the university reported last week.

“We have five weeks before the break. I’m very proud of the way the university has risen to the challenge so far, but we cannot become complacent,” Robbins said.

With fall break approaching Nov. 26, UA is taking proactive measures to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 as students travel outside the area.

On Nov. 6, the university will begin a “testing blitz” by appointment only. Students who plan to travel over break and have not received a positive coronavirus test over the past 90 days are “strongly encouraged” to get tested.

All main campus students are required to take a coronavirus antigen test and complete a survey with their fall break traveling plans. Those who travel outside the Tucson area over break are encouraged to complete the semester remotely, according to Robbins.

However, UA students won’t get a similar week off in the spring. Instead of spring break, the university will have five separate “reading days” with no classes held.

“It’s a traumatic step to say we’re not going to have spring break next year, but it’s a really important step,” UA Provost Liesl Folks said. “The CDC is unambiguous about the fact that travel is one of the core ways that we spread the virus around the country.”

Reentry Task Force Director Dr. Richard Carmona highlighted the university’s 4.7% coronavirus positivity rating for their total testing window since the beginning of August. He said although the “desired number” is below 5%, the university shouldn’t get too comfortable.

During the past week, the university’s CART team, a collaboration with the UA and Tucson police departments that looks for noncompliance to COVID-19 precautions, responded to 15 incidents.

“We are happy that the intense public health practices we are inspiring others to adopt in our campus, in our community, are actually doing the job, but we got to push even harder now,” Carmona said.

Get tested: Pima County opens new downtown testing center, UA offering antibody testing

The Pima County Health Department opened a new COVID-19 testing site downtown last Friday, Oct. 16, at 88 E. Broadway Blvd., on the southwest corner of Broadway and Sixth Ave. Testing will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Testing is available without an appointment, or by appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.

With workday testing available around lunch time, the county health department hopes this new site will serve as a resource for downtown employees. As with other county testing locations, the tests will be conducted by Paradigm Laboratories, and results will be available online in 72 hours or less.

“Quick and accessible testing is a key factor in helping businesses protect their employees and patrons as the pandemic continues,” said PCHD director Dr. Theresa Cullen in a press release. “We want to do all that we can to support businesses as they get back on their feet.”

The county has three other free testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—with results in 24 to 72 hours.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.

The centers are also tied into Pima County’s developing contact tracing operation, which aims to be able to identify potential clusters and warn people if they have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill.

To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Nicole Ludden, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen


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