Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Tuesday, Nov. 3: Cases Continue To Surge in AZ With More than 1,600 today; State Closes in on 250,000 Total Cases; 6K Now Dead After Contracting Virus; Free Testing Available

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With 1,679 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in a quarter-million as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 29,141 of the state’s 249,818 confirmed cases.

With 38 new deaths reported yesterday, a total of 6,020 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 646 deaths in Pima County, according to the Nov. 3 report.

Although the current rise in COVID-19 cases is alarming, Gov. Doug Ducey warned last week there’s even more to come.

“We know that there is a storm ahead of us, yet it’s not here,” Ducey said. “But those simple guidelines of wearing a mask, washing our hands, being socially distanced and using common sense have served us very well to date.”

However, the governor doesn’t plan on imposing new safety restrictions to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“The mitigation that we’ve put out, the plan we put into effect remains in effect. I am proud that Arizona is open, that our economy is open, that our educational institutions are open and our tourist destinations are open,” Ducey said. “While at the same time, we do have mitigation steps in place that have allowed us to protect lives while protecting livelihoods, and we’re gonna continue to do that.”

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined from July peaks but has ticked upward in recent weeks as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly. ADHS reported that as of Nov. 2, 956 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13; it hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27.

A total of 826 people visited emergency rooms on Nov. 2 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 227 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Nov. 2. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13 and hit a subsequent low of 114 on Sept. 22.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,452 cases, according to an Oct. 29 report from the Pima County Health Department.

Pima County saw a big bump in cases following the return of UA students, followed by a steady decline and then a big bump upward. For the week ending Sept. 19, 1,230 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 26, 615 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 3, 533 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 10, 465 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 17, 512 cases were reported; and for the week ending Oct. 24, 829 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, four in the week ending Oct. 3, two in the week ending Oct 10, and zero in the subsequent weeks.

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. 19, 17 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 26, 15 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 3, 20 patients were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 10, 27 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 17, 35 people were admitted; and in the week ending Oct. 24, 28 people were admitted. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)

Local school districts see scattered cases

As Tucson’s schools reopen for in-person classes, some are reporting an increasing number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff—many who are being asked to quarantine themselves if they were in contact with people who have tested positive.

As of Monday, the Amphitheater Unified School District has reported 20 active coronavirus cases resulting in 98 students and staff members quarantining, according to Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela.

Since opening in a hybrid model on Oct. 12, Amphitheater has reported 24 total cases reaching 10 different school sites. Valenzuela says four of those cases are no longer active.

Superintendent Todd Jaeger believes the cases are originating from off-campus events.

“While it's somewhat defeating and concerning that we've had the cases that we had, it's notable to me that they have all originated off of campus,” Jaeger said. “In other words, we don't have a single case yet that we know of that originated on campus.”

The superintendent said high COVID-19 case counts are usually related to one specific activity that occurred over a weekend. Such was the case, according to Jaeger, with eight Ironwood Ridge High School students who tested positive over the past week.

He asks students to practice proper safety protocol to avoid the virus as much outside of school as they do in the classrooms.

“The message for everyone there is that you can’t socially distance, you cannot properly wear masks, you cannot take appropriate precautions in just one part of your life, it has to be in all walks of your life,” Jaeger said. “In school, still, it does not take a lot of policing, the kids are generally very, very compliant. I guess I was hoping that was the case off of campus as well.”

At Holaway Elementary, both fifth-grade classrooms moved to entirely online instruction after two staff members reported positive COVID-19 tests on Oct. 28 and 31.

Jaeger said these larger quarantines will be “narrowly tailored” based on each school’s coronavirus outbreaks after consulting with the Pima County Health Department.

“We are always going to keep the safety of students at the forefront of our decision making. We're consulting specifically with public health officials, epidemiologists and the like to tell us what we should do,” he said. “It's all of those other events in our life that pose potential exposure risks as well, that we have to be vigilant of. We have to be vigilant in all of our interactions out there in public right now.”

Find a list of all reported Amphi cases here.

Meanwhile, Marana has reported 19 positive COVID-19 cases with 56 students and staff members in quarantine since they reopened in a hybrid model Oct. 19, according to Alli Benjamin, the district’s public relations and community engagement director.

Three employees and 16 students have tested positive, causing five employees and 51 students to quarantine.

The district experienced 14 more coronavirus cases and 32 more students and staff in quarantine since last Monday, but Benjamin was not able to reveal the number of cases from each school and the date they were reported since Oct. 26.

Benjamin did say the affected locations include Mountain View High School, Marana Middle School, Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary, Estes Elementary, Picture Rocks Elementary, Gladden Farms Elementary, Quail Run Elementary and Butterfield Elementary. Benjamin said a positive test from a staff member in the district’s transportation department was reported on Oct. 29.

Four students tested positive for coronavirus at Mountain View High School on Oct. 25, 24, 23 and 22, causing 23 students and employees who were potentially exposed to quarantine, Benjamin said last week.

One student was reported as testing positive at Marana Middle School on Oct. 21, but no potential contacts were established, according to Benjamin.

Cases bumping upward at University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is reporting elevated COVID-19 cases reflective of a state-wide uptick after large gatherings occurred over the Halloween weekend, UA President Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference Monday, Nov. 2.

From Oct. 23 through Nov. 1, UA found 79 positive coronavirus cases after administering 7,122 tests for a positivity rate of 1.1%, an increase from the 0.6% rate the university reported the previous 10-day period.

The university found seven gatherings with over 100 attendees throughout the past week. UA’s CART team, a collaboration with the UA and Tucson police departments that looks for noncompliance to COVID-19 precautions, responded to 18 incidents since Oct. 26.

“This is not just a nuisance. These people who are acting indiscriminately are placing all of us at risk,” Reentry Task Force Director Richard Carmona said.

The university allowed classes of 50 or fewer students to return to campus last week as it continues phase 2 of its reopening plan. According to Carmona, there have been no issues with classroom transmissibility.

Robbins says the university will continue in this phase until fall break on Nov. 26 if public health metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus allow. However, some of these metrics are beginning to cause concern.

“We’re concerned about the deterioration of conditions nationally,” Robbins said. “While Pima County is faring better than some other areas, we do see some signs of concern here as well.”

Carmona said Pima County’s current R0, pronounced “R naught,” which indicates how contagious a virus is, has increased to 1.71 from 0.99 last week. The transmissibility rate for the zip code surrounding the university has increased from 0.68 to 1.25 this week.

Statewide, coronavirus is spreading as fast as it did in June. Carmona went over data showing over the past 14 days, coronavirus cases in the state increased by 67%, while deaths increased by 57%.

As COVID-19 cases rise, the university is continuing its preparation for fall break, requiring all main campus students to complete a survey with their traveling plans. After completing the survey, students will be directed to a website to register for the university’s appointment-only “testing blitz” from Nov. 9-15.

If students travel outside the Tucson area over fall break, the university is asking them to complete the semester outside the area or remotely online. Those who don’t travel can complete the semester from their student residences.

Get tested: Pima County offers free COVID testing, UA offering antibody testing

The Pima County Health Department has four free testing centers around town 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) the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road) and downtown (88 E. Broadway). 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 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.



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