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Arizona reports over 7,000 more COVID-19 cases, 154 deaths; Gov. Ducey wants schools open

Arizona on Jan. 4 reported over 7,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases for the fourth time in five days and over 150 more virus deaths as the current spike continued to keep hospitals crowded statewide.

The additional 7,212 cases and 154 deaths increased the state’s pandemic totals to 1,411,813 cases and 24,509 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Arizona on Monday reported 14,192 additional cases, the most on a single day since January 2020. Officials said that large number reflected both lower than normal reporting last Sunday, when just 701 additional cases were reported, but also the surge.

"Like the rest of the country, Arizona is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant spreads," the Department of Health Services said Tuesday on Twitter.

The dashboard said COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide increased for the third straight day, with 2,463 virus patients occupying inpatient beds as of Monday.

MORE: Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

Arizona’s hospital association on Monday said the health care system was stretched thin and urged people to get vaccinated and to consider options for care, including discussing symptoms with their primary care providers, using telemedicine and going to urgent care if they don’t need emergency treatment.

"We want to be there for you in the event of an emergency. Care in our hospitals is safe, but our ability to provide safe care is in jeopardy. We need your help," the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare association said on Twitter.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks, from 2,914.6 on Dec. 19 to 5,986.9 on Sunday, while the rolling average of daily deaths dropped from 68.4 to 53.3 during the same period.

In northwestern Arizona, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 for a resolution recognizing a public health crisis due to severe staffing shortages at hospitals in the county, a generally conservative area with low vaccination rates.

The resolution was approved Monday after the board, also by a 3-2 vote, on Dec. 20 rejected a request by hospital officials to declare a state of emergency because of the hospital crisis, Today’s News-Herald reported.

Kingman Regional Medical Center CEO Will McConnell said the board’s official recognition of the crisis will allow local hospitals to make a stronger case for state and federal help with getting more nurses.

Supervisors Hildy Angius voted against the resolution.

"For the government to have a resolution, recognizing this as a crisis — when a lot of that crisis was caused because of government intervention — I don’t think it helps you," Angius told McConnell.

Gov. Ducey wants schools open despite surge

On Tuesday, Gov. Ducey took what he called "preemptive action" to keep public school students in classrooms despite rising coronavirus hospitalizations as the more contagious omicron variant spreads.

The Republican governor announced a program to give private school vouchers if their children’s schools close or move to remote learning. He’s using federal coronavirus relief funds, despite warnings from the U.S. Treasury Department that two earlier school programs he created are not allowed under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Ducey is tapping $10 million in relief funds to give parents up to $7,000 a year to pay tuition and education costs. Applicants can earn up to 350% of the federal poverty level — $92,750 for a family of four.

No Arizona public schools have announced plans to close or return to remote learning, but the president of the state teachers union said Tuesday it may happen if enough staff are sidelined by illness.

"If we continue to see omicron spread like it’s been spreading then you eventually will be facing the same things that restaurants and movie theaters and small businesses everywhere are going to be facing," Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said. "If you don’t have enough healthy employees, you have to make some kind of change. And so that may be what they’re trying to get out in front of."

Thomas said he was in no way advocating for school shutdowns, just advising parents about the realities they may face. A tweet he sent on Monday that said schools might have to close drew the ire of Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon. Salmon accused Thomas of pushing for closures and said he would ban hybrid learning and promote expansion of the state’s private school voucher programs.



 

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

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.

More COVID-19 in Arizona news

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