Arizona continues to see significant spread of COVID-19 because of the highly contagious omicron variant and hospitals remain strained with high levels of virus and other patients.
On Friday, Arizona reported 18,034 new COVID-19 cases and 73 new known deaths, continuing high case reports seen for most of January.
More people tested positive for COVID-19 in Arizona on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 than any days previously during the pandemic, according to state data, with over 25,000 individuals testing positive on each of those days.
COVID-19 and other hospitalizations have remained high in recent weeks, with some hospitals operating near or over capacity.
Emergency room visits from patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 have stayed near the highest levels of the pandemic over the last week.
On Thursday, 3,410 patients were hospitalized across Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19, continuing a steady increase, and just 127 ICU beds were available across the state.
The total of known deaths in the state was 25,502 as of Friday. The state surpassed 25,000 deaths on Jan. 13, 16 days after it reached 24,000 deaths on Dec. 28, which had come 17 days after it passed 23,000 deaths.
Arizona's seven-day COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 people ranked 11th in the nation out of all states and territories as of Thursday, after ranking first and second last month, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state's overall pandemic death rate ranks third highest nationwide.
State data on breakthrough infections
The state last month began publicly disclosing data on breakthrough COVID-19 infections, and state officials say the data so far underscores the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among people not fully vaccinated.
There had been 109,516 confirmed vaccine breakthrough cases among the more than 3.9 million fully vaccinated people in Arizona, as of Jan. 3. Of those cases, 852 have involved deaths, according to preliminary data from the state, which works out to a breakthrough death rate among fully vaccinated people of about 0.02%.
State data shows that unvaccinated people in Arizona had a 4.9 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, 17.5 times greater risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 and 31.1 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 in November compared with fully vaccinated people.
Case rates and death reports
Previous days this past week saw the following new case reports: 24,964 on Jan. 15; 21,637 on Jan. 16; 12,066 on Jan. 17; 23,836 on Jan. 18; 20,497 on Jan. 19; and 17,724 on Jan. 20.
Death reports for the past week were: 103 on Jan. 15; 40 on Jan. 16; one on Jan. 17; 183 on Jan. 18; 21 on Jan. 19; and 13 on Jan. 20.
The Arizona Republic generally recaps the state's daily numbers online in a COVID-19 updates blog and in a weekly recap story online on Thursdays or Fridays and in the newspaper on Sundays.
Arizona's seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 12th among all states and territories on Thursday after ranking first and second for much of January and then lower since, according to the CDC's COVID-19 Data Tracker. Last week, it ranked 33rd.
The omicron variant is overwhelmingly dominant in Arizona, according to results from sequencing labs.
The state's seven-day average for new reported COVID-19 cases was at 19,823 on Friday, compared with 16,866 a week ago and 9,092 two weeks ago. The previous record was about 9,800 in January 2021, according to state data.
Percent positivity, which refers to the percentage of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, varies somewhat based on how it's measured. It's been high in recent weeks, a sign of more community spread.
For most of November, Arizona's percent positivity for COVID-19 testing was at 12-13%. It was 11% for the week of Dec. 5, 11% for the week of Dec. 12, 13% for the week of Dec. 19, 22% for the week of Dec. 26, 29% for the week of Jan. 2 and 33% for the week of Jan. 9. It’s at 33% so far for the week of Jan. 16. The percentages are now for all diagnostic tests conducted, rather than for unique individuals tested, following a change to the state dashboard.
Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona's seven-day moving average of percent positives at 24.8% as of Friday.
A positivity rate of 5% or less is considered a good benchmark that the disease's spread is under control.
The state's overall COVID-19 death and case rates since Jan. 21, 2020, still remain among the worst in the country.
The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began is 349 deaths per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC, putting it third in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average is 257 deaths per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC.
New York City has the highest death rate, at 443 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Mississippi.
Arizona surpassed 25,000 known deaths on Jan. 13 after passing 24,000 deaths on Dec. 28, 23,000 deaths on Dec. 11, 22,000 deaths on Nov. 23, 21,000 deaths on Oct. 27, and 20,000 deaths on Oct. 1.
The state exceeded 10,000 reported known deaths on Jan. 9. Arizona's first known death from the disease occurred in mid-March 2020.
Many of the reported deaths occurred days or weeks before because of reporting delays and death certificate matching.
A total of 1,701,949 COVID-19 cases had been identified across the state as of Friday.
Hospitalizations increased last week
The Arizona data dashboard shows 92% of all ICU beds and 94% of all inpatient beds in the state were in use on Thursday, with 36% of ICU beds and 39% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, 127 ICU beds and 492 non-ICU beds were available.
The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 3,410 on Thursday, an increase from last week. Two weeks ago that number was at 2,562. The record was 5,082 inpatients on Jan. 11, 2021. The highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer 2020 surge was 3,517 on July 13.
The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona has stayed more steady, at 597 on Thursday, compared with 630 last week and 609 three weeks prior. That's still far below the record high of 1,183 on Jan. 11, 2021. During the summer surge in mid-July 2020, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.
Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators were at 298 on Thursday. The record-high 821 was reached on Jan. 13, 2021. During the summer 2020 surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use, with 687 patients.
Thursday saw 1,924 patients in Arizona emergency rooms for COVID-19, below the record high from Jan. 11, when 2,589 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients were seen in emergency departments across the state.
Arizonans aged 5 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and older. Many individuals are eligible for booster doses, too.
The state reported more than 4.8 million people in Arizona — about 67.6% of the total state population — had received at least one vaccine dose as of Friday, with about 4 million residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state’s data dashboard now separates out doses administered to Arizona residents versus all doses administered in the state.
Arizona's rate of fully vaccinated people out of the total population is 58.3%, which is behind the national rate of 63.2%, according to the CDC as of Thursday.
Out of the vaccine-eligible population, people ages 5 and older, 62% of those in Arizona are fully vaccinated, compared with 67.2% at the national level, CDC data shows.
Health experts strongly recommend booster shots for those eligible, especially with the omicron variant spreading. About 38% of fully vaccinated Arizonans over the age of 18 had received a booster shot as of Thursday, below the national rate of 42.4% for that same age group.
What to know about Friday's numbers
Reported cases in Arizona: 1,701,949.
Daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the state health department, not by the date the tests were administered.
Cases by county: 1,082,411 in Maricopa; 211,888 in Pima; 108,340 in Pinal; 53,601 in Yuma; 47,876 in Mohave; 41,515 in Yavapai; 36,646 in Coconino; 32,482 in Navajo; 24,507 in Cochise; 18,690 in Apache; 14,329 in Gila; 13,229 in Santa Cruz; 10,157 in Graham; 4,383 in La Paz; and 1,895 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.
The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Navajo County, followed by Graham, Apache, Gila and Maricopa counties, per state data. The rate in Navajo County is 28,790 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 20,684 cases per 100,000 people as of Thursday, according to the CDC.
The Navajo Nation reported 46,643 cases and 1,602 confirmed deaths as of Thursday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 13,484 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 2,382 in Tucson, 2,216 in Eyman, 2,071 in Yuma, 1,377 in Lewis and 1,154 in Douglas; 52,649 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 4,068 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Fifty-six incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with nine additional deaths under investigation.
The race/ethnicity breakdown of cases since the start of the pandemic in 2020 has been 38% white, 29% Hispanic or Latino, 5% American Indian, 4% Black and 2% Asian/Pacific Islander. Race/ethnicity of positive cases since the onset of the pandemic is unknown in 17% of cases, and listed as other race in 6% of cases.
Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, about 21% were younger than 20, 43% were 20-44, 14% were 45-54, 11% were 55-64 and 12% were age 65 or older.
Laboratories had completed 16,873,213 total diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as of Friday, 11.5% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. Percent positivity is at 33% so far for the week of Jan. 16. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.
The state Health Department includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) use 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, Mayo Clinic officials said. They say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result.
Arizona as of Thursday had the 14th 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 Rhode Island, North Dakota, New York City, Utah, Alaska, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, South Dakota, Delaware, Arkansas and Kentucky, according to the CDC.
Arizona's infection rate is 22,891 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 20,684 cases per 100,000 people, although the rates in states hard hit early in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April 2020.
Reported deaths in Arizona: 25,502
Deaths by county: 14,332 in Maricopa; 3,349 in Pima; 1,403 in Pinal; 1,255 in Mohave; 1,032 in Yavapai; 1,024 in Yuma; 787 in Navajo; 560 in Apache; 491 in Cochise; 430 in Coconino; 326 in Gila; 208 in Santa Cruz; 161 in Graham; 114 in La Paz; and 30 in Greenlee.
People age 65 and older make up 17,951 of the 25,502 deaths, or 70%. About 16% of deaths were among people 55-64 years old, 8% were 45-54 and 6% were 20-44 years old.
While race/ethnicity was unknown for 6% of deaths, 53% of those who died were white, 27% were Hispanic or Latino, 7% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data shows.
The global death toll as of Friday was 5,578,507. The U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 861,049, followed by Brazil at 622,476 and India at 488,396, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Arizona's 25,502 deaths represent about 3% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
Republic reporter Stephanie Innes contributed to this article.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jan. 21 Arizona COVID-19 update: 18,034 new cases, 73 new deaths