Arizona still hot spot despite dip in virus hospitalizations

Hospital administrators across Arizona warned residents Wednesday not to become complacent because of a noticeable decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, stressing the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

"Mitigation and enforcement will be much more effective in reducing COVID cases and deaths in the coming months," said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer for Banner Health. The health care company’s hospital system is estimated to be caring for about half of the state’s COVID-19 patients.

Bessel and other health care officials said even with statistics trending downward, Arizona is still recording figures higher than last July’s virus surge. The state Department of Health Services reported 5,918 additional known cases and 195 deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 738,561 cases and 12,643 deaths.

The outbreak has seen Arizona become a hot spot during both the surge last summer and the current one, but the number of newly reported cases has dropped recently.

Still, Arizona had the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rating among U.S. states over the past week when one person in every 153 residents was reported to be newly infected. The diagnosis rate is a state’s population divided by the number of new cases over the past week.

Hospitals and public health experts are also worried that Arizona could experience another surge in March if reported variants of the virus surface in the state, said Dr. Michael White of Valleywise Health.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases dropped over the past two weeks, declining from 9,803.7 per day on Jan. 12 to 6,706.29 on Tuesday.

The rolling average of daily deaths rose from 166.4 to 168.9 during the same period, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID-Tracking Project.

According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, 4,250 COVID-19 patients occupied hospital inpatient beds as of Tuesday, above the 4,221 on Monday and below the pandemic record of 5,028 on Jan. 1.

Over 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Arizona residents as of Wednesday, the state department of health services said.

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.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

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CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ: azdhs.gov/coronavirus

On CoronavirusNOW.com, you'll find extensive coverage about COVID-19, including breaking news from around the country, exclusive interviews with health officials, and informative content from a variety of public health resources.

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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