Arizona reports record deaths, leads nation in new case rate

Arizona on Jan. 5 reported a record number of additional COVID-19 deaths along with new hospitalization highs as cases surge in the state with the fastest-growing rate of new infections.

The Department of Health Services reported 253 additional deaths, exceeding the previous one-day record of 172 reported on July 30. The state also reported 5,932 additional COVID-19 cases, raising the state’s totals since the pandemic began to 567,474 cases and 9,317 deaths.

The department said the additional deaths included 215 newly attributed to COVID-19 through a periodic review of death certificates. The agency could not specify when the 215 deaths occurred, Department spokeswoman Holly Poynter said.

A record 4,789 COVID-19 patients occupied hospital beds Monday, an increase of more than 200 from Sunday, according to the state’s coronavirus data. Monday also saw a record 1,096 COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds.

Arizona on Sunday reported a record one-day total of 17,234 additional cases. As of Tuesday, the state had the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the nation with one person in every 126 people being diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past week.

The diagnosis rate is calculated by dividing a state's population by the number of new cases.

Arizona's hospitals have been stressed by the surge, with some stopping elective surgeries and turning away ambulance runs and hospital transfers while still accepting walk-in patients needing emergency care.

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

Experts call for aggressive actions to stop COVID-19 spread

"We really need the public's help," said Annmarie Alameddin, President of the Arizona Hospital Association. "We need business, school districts and everyday Arizonans to take action in their circle and mitigate and flatten this curve."

Alameddin says statewide, hospitals are at approximately 90% to 95% capacity, with 50% of those being COVID patients.

"Our hospital capacity statewide is at a critical juncture right now," said Alameddin. "Our healthcare heroes that show up for their shift every day are tired."

Alameddin says she realizes that many Arizonans are feeling pandemic fatigue, but she says people need to this seriously.

"Those healthcare heroes who show up to take care of patients and who have really seen more sickness and death than any health care provider want to see, we owe it to them to really buckle down and get through this because the vaccine is here, and we just need that time to roll it out and so that we can get our population vaccinated," said Alameddin.

In other developments...

Two major school districts in metro Phoenix narrowly avoided a planned teacher sickout by putting off plans to reopen for full-time, in-person instruction.

The Chandler school board voted late Monday to keep students in online instruction until Jan. 19, a day after the Martin Luther King holiday. Originally, the district had planned to resume in-person classes but students in grades 7-12 would have had the option to attend remotely.

Katie Byrne Nash, president of the union representing Chandler teachers, called the decision "a huge relief." Most teachers and some parents were vehemently opposed to returning to in-person instruction amid the surge of infections. She said most of the hundreds of teachers were satisfied and none planned to call out sick.

"I think everyone has a different definition and level of what they feel is safe," Nash said. "In a global pandemic, we have to do what’s best for the greater good."

The district said Tuesday would be a teacher workday to prepare for online instruction that would resume Wednesday.

Jennifer Douglas, who has three children in the Chandler school district and is a former teacher, was sympathetic to the teachers' concerns but also hoping her 12-year-old twins and 16-year-old daughter would be able to go back to school.

"We haven’t done anything deemed unsafe," Douglas said. "I felt like sending my kids back to school would be OK. I felt like we did what we could to be responsible."

The board of nearby Gilbert Public Schools decided Monday night to conduct hybrid learning through Jan. 29. Originally, the district had planned to only do it the first week back from the holidays and then transition to in-person instruction on Jan. 11, according to the district website.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Saturday rejected state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman's call for him to order a two-week "quarantine period" that would keep schools statewide in online learning unless they had waivers from public health officials.

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


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

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ:

On, 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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