Half of Arizona counties seeing substantial virus spread

Half of the counties in Arizona are seeing "substantial" spread of COVID-19, state health officials said Dec. 17 while reporting 5,817 new cases and 147 more deaths throughout the state.

Weekly metrics released by the Arizona Department of Health Services listed eight counties in southern and eastern Arizona, including Pima, with a substantial number of cases. Arizona’s other seven counties, including Maricopa, remained classified as moderate.

Gov. Doug Ducey has resisted a return to business closures and a stay-home order he imposed in the early stages of the outbreak, saying it’s up to people to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread. He reiterated that view Wednesday, saying "we are doing everything that we can."

Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s top health official, has advised people to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and try to stay outside whenever socializing with people with whom they don’t live.

Arizona’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak continued to mount Dec. 17 with the state reporting nearly 150 additional known deaths as the current surge saw hospitals statewide approach full capacity.

The state reported 5,817 additional known cases and 147 additional deaths, increasing Arizona’s totals to 435,036 cases and 7,677 deaths.

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

Arizona on Wednesday had reported 108 additional deaths, and the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose from 30.7 on Dec. 2 to 64.1 deaths.

The state health agency’s dashboard shows Apache, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Navajo, Pima, Santa Cruz and Yavapai counties now experiencing substantial coronavirus spread.

The metrics were created during Arizona’s summer coronavirus surge to gauge when businesses would be allowed to reopen, but there’s no requirement for closures now that the numbers are again bleak. The metrics are also a guide for school administrators to make decisions about partially or fully allowing in-person instruction.

Rolling seven-day averages of daily new cases and COVID-19 testing positivity also increased.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients rose to 3,884 on Wednesday while the number of hospital beds not in use continued to shrink, with those available down to a pandemic low of 7%.

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.

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus

Continuing Coverage

FOX 10 is working to keep you up to date with local and national developments on COVID-19. Every weekday on FOX News Now, our live coverage begins at 7 a.m. MST reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.

You can watch live in your FOX 10 News app or on the FOX 10 Facebook page.

You can also get the latest coronavirus news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com

COVID-19 vaccine distribution begins in Maricopa County

Maricopa County is set to distribute vaccines in the Valley starting Dec.17. Officials expect to administer 123,000 shots in their first rollout of the vaccine.

Valley school districts work to decide how to move forward in pandemic

Arizona school districts are working to find solutions to online and in-person learning as families navigate the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic.

Gov. Ducey touts COVID-19 vaccine as open hospital beds hit record low

Ducey was joined by AZDHS Director Dr. Cara Christ for a tour of the drive-thru vaccination site that is being operated by Banner Health officials.