Arizona death toll tops 14K; caution urged for Super Bowl

Arizona’s death toll from the pandemic passed 14,000 on Feb. 6 as health officials urged football fans to forego Super Bowl gatherings outside members of their own households to help combat spread of the coronavirus.

The Department of Health Services reported 3,471 additional known COVID-19 cases and 63 additional deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 779,093 cases and 14,011 deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Arizona, a national hot spot in the now-receding fall and winter surge, recently has seen its rates of additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths decrease with the passage of time since holidays increased exposures due to gatherings and travel.

However, public health officials have warned against complacency regarding the spread of the coronavirus and urged caution on Super Bowl weekend.

"Mixing households poses a high risk for spreading COVID-19. The safest way to watch the game is with those in your household only," the Maricopa County Public Health Service said on Twitter.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said while it’s safest to watch the game with only those in your household or remotely through a virtual party, the agency suggested that those attending an in-person outdoor viewing point use a projector screen to show the game and sit 6 feet (2 meters) apart from people outside the same household.

Arizona doctors warn against Super Bowl parties

Valley bars and restaurants are gearing up for a very different Sunday for the big game.

Balloons are out at places like the Golden Margarita on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix are planning to have a celebration Sunday while following CDC guidelines. Others are likely planning get-togethers at home in front of the TV.

"This game is going to be great," said Dr. Brian Hess with Abrazo Health.

Dr. Hess spoke to FOX 10 while in the Abrazo Surprise Hospital emergency room.

"I hate to say it," Hess said. "But it’s the right thing to say. If you’re thinking about having a party... don’t do it. If you’re thinking about going to a party, don’t do it."

He says his emergency room, like so many others, are flooded with COVID-19 patients.

He’s concerned Sunday will be a super spreader event, just as case numbers are starting to look better in Arizona. Hess says that if you do go out to bars or restaurants, or a friend's house, try to be as careful as possible and keep that mask on.

"Brady gets sacked or Brady throws a touchdown, you’re cheering or crying, you want to give him a high five or hit him or whatever," Hess said. "It’s a fun time, [but] you really shouldn’t be doing that right now because the results could be catastrophic."

He said he knows patients will come into his emergency room in the future because of Sunday get-togethers.

"Yes, most likely," Hess said. "And that’s not fun to think about."

Seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths in Arizona continued to drop over the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project.

The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 7,122.1 on Jan. 22 to 3,908.9 on Friday while the rolling average of death deaths dropped from 160.3 to 132.3 during the same period.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Arizona also continued to drop, with 3,060 occupying inpatient beds as of Friday, down from the Jan. 11 pandemic high of 5,082 and also below the summer surge’s peak of 3,517 on July 13, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Arizona was the U.S. state with the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate during much of January but as of Friday had the sixth-worst rate over the past week, with 1 in every 262 residents becoming newly infected.

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