Arizona reports more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases, highest since start of pandemic

For the third day in a row, Arizona has broken the record for the highest reported number of new COVID-19 cases in one day.

On Jan. 14, the Arizona Dept. of Health Services reported 20,257 new cases and 66 additional deaths.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 12 and 13, the state recorded more than 18,000 new cases - surpassing the old record set in January of last year. More than 17,000 cases had been reported on Jan. 3, 2021.

More than 25,000 people have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

This week, the percent of people testing positive ticked up to 34% as a high demand for tests continues.

The recent surge has been fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant and gatherings during the holiday season. However, some researchers say this variant is more "mild," with a steep drop in cases predicted by the end of January.

Hospitals across Arizona have demanded more measures to be taken to prevent the spread as some medical facilities are out of beds, and some COVID-19 positive staff are still being asked to continue working amid major shortages in the industry.

Tough decisions in Valley hospitals

Last year, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in Arizona, just ahead of cancer and heart disease. Within the last week, they say the state has had the fewest number of available hospital beds since the start of the pandemic, and the shortage of staff has forced the CDC to change its guidelines once again saying if you are a healthcare worker and test positive for COVID, but feel fine, you can still work.

Because of the omicron variant’s rapid spread in Maricopa County and in anticipation of a continued increase, Dignity Health officials said they have enacted the "third tier" of the federal guidelines for health care workers with the coronavirus.

"We're frustrated that we're at this point, because I feel myself and many other healthcare workers have been saying for months: we're concerned if we don't stem the tide, we're gonna see things like this," said Dr. Ross Goldberg, Vice Chair of Surgery at Valleywise Health.

Dr. Goldberg said resources have been stretching thin for months, and with staffing shortages throughout the country, he understands why Dignity had to make such a tough decision.

"Be smart and be safe. Just be mindful where you are. Realize this can spread," said Dr. Goldberg. "We really need everyone's help. This is for everyone's benefit, not just for COVID, but heart attack, car accidents. We want to make sure there are beds available, and staff available to take care of you."

More than 1,000 healthcare workers from across the state signed an open letter urging proactive COVID-19 mitigation measures, including enforcing mask mandates in classrooms and expanding testing sites.

The letter signed by over 1,000 people was addressed to Governor Doug Ducey, the Arizona Department of Health Services Interim Director, members of the state legislature, Arizona's mayors, as well as several others.

The letter emphasizes the urgent need for proactive measures and warns that without imminent action, Arizona will face the collapse of its healthcare system. 

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code


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