Arizona virus death toll tops 8K with 2nd-largest daily rise

Arizona's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak passed the 8,000 mark on Dec. 22 as the state reported an additional 153 known deaths, the second-highest daily increase during the pandemic.

The 5,869 additional known COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday by the Department of Health Services increased the pandemic's total to 467,215 cases along with 8,125 deaths.

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.

According to the state coronavirus dashboard, there were 4,019 COVID-19-related hospitalizations as of Monday, the latest in a string of pandemic-highs recorded this month during the fall surge that is continuing into winter.

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

The dashboard reported that only 9% of hospital beds statewide were not in use and available. Bed availability has hovered at that approximate level since earlier this month as the surge accelerated after Thanksgiving due gatherings and travel.

The Pima County Health Department on Monday warned that metro Tucson's health care system was "in danger of being overwhelmed" by the surge.

"In the last week, there have been multiple times when there have been no ICU beds available in Pima County; at different times, hospital medical/surgical beds have also reached capacity," the department said in a public health advisory update.

The advisory called for mask wearing, distancing, limiting gatherings, reducing business occupancies and adhering to the county's nightly curfew.

Hospital officials and public health officials in metro Phoenix also have issued similar warnings.

The 153 deaths reported statewide Tuesday was behind only the 172 deaths reported on July 30 during the summer surge.

The state reported only one additional COVID-19 death Monday, but the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Arizona as of Monday stood at 87.7, up from 44.4 on Dec. 7.

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Arizona also rose over the past two weeks, going from from 5,575.14 to 5,871, while the positivity rate from COVID-19 testing in Arizona dropped from 14.9% to 13.1%.

COVID-19 vaccinations that began last week in Arizona's large metro areas have now begun in outlying areas of the state.

In Yuma County in southwestern Arizona, 20 of the county's initial vaccinations were administered to frontline heath care providers in a test conducted Monday by Yuma Regional Medical Center, the Yuma Sun reported.

In another development, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that the state will distribute $40.2 million of federal funding to help people facing homelessness and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.

Planned uses for the money will include expanding shelters, adding transitional housing and providing emergency payments of rent, utility, food, and clothing for families and individuals, Ducey's office said in a statement.

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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

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Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic:

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Arizona continues string of record COVID-19 hospitalizations

Arizona on Dec. 19 reported another record number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations along with over 5,500 new confirmed infections and a fourth straight day of triple-digit deaths.