Arizona sets hospitalization high amid surge in virus cases

Arizona on Dec. 31 reported over 7,000 new COVID-19 cases and 146 deaths as the state's health care system struggled to cope with a surge that set another hospitalization record.

The 7,718 new infections that the Department of Health Services reported brings the statewide totals to 520,207 cases and 8,864 deaths since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The 4,564 COVID-19-related hospitalizations as of Wednesday were the latest in a string of pandemic highs set since early December. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds dropped slightly to 1,028, down from Tuesday's record of 1,076, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.

Arizona hospitals have been hammered by the surge of COVID-19 patients, who occupy over half of the state’s inpatient beds and nearly three of every five ICU beds.

Phoenix-based Banner Health, the largest health system in the state, said Wednesday that it had suspended elective surgeries to free up capacity for treating COVID-19 patients. Some of Banner's hospitals were among those resorting to turning away patients arriving by ambulance or being transferred from other hospitals, while still accepting walk-in patients needing emergency care.

Arizona had the nation's fourth-highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, behind California, Tennessee and Rhodes Island. The diagnosis rate is calculated by dividing a state's population by the number of new cases.

Arizona's seven-day rolling average of daily confirmed cases dropped from about 6,659 reported on Dec. 16 to the average of 5,602 reported on Wednesday, while the rolling average of daily deaths rose from 64 to 77 over the same period, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the COVID Tracking Project.

With the state behind on setting up a mass vaccination program, Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday ordered the Department of Health Services to establish a statewide distribution system rather than continuing to rely on county health departments to manage the program in their own areas.

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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