Maricopa County expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to adults 65 and older

Beginning Monday, February 15, adults who are 65 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at all vaccine locations in Maricopa County.

Maricopa County officials said the decision is in alignment with the federal pharmacy vaccine program, which will bring the vaccine to 182 pharmacies in Maricopa County.

"The data shows that our decision to provide older adults a little extra time to access vaccine has proven successful and the timing is now right to invite our residents 65 and older to step up and get vaccinated," said Marcy Flanagan, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The department estimates there are nearly 400,000 adults ages 65-74 who are eligible for the vaccine.

Two large state-run vaccination sites in Maricopa County, which includes most of metro Phoenix, began providing shots to people 65 and older previously. The state has administered over one million vaccines.

Arizona reported 1,338 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Feb. 15.

The state is likely to surpass both benchmarks of 800,000 cases and 15,000 deaths on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The state has reported 798,608 cases and 14,978 deaths thus far.

Health officials say the coronavirus remains widespread across the state, but the surge that made Arizona the nation’s hot spot last month is receding.

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.

With the number of COVID-19 patients dropping, the state’s largest hospital chain, Phoenix-based Banner Health, said last week it was loosening its criteria for elective surgeries and performing more such procedures that had been delayed in recent months due to the surge.

"Hospitals can still make decisions locally regarding which elective surgeries they will proceed with based on local resources and capacity," Banner said in a statement.

However, Banner said the number of fatalities continued to keep its hospital morgues nearly full and that it continued to use at least one of two refrigerated trucks to temporarily store bodies.

Banner also said it continued to use contract workers to augment its hospitals’ staffs and that no-visitor policies remained in effect with few exceptions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

MORE: How to sign up and schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

MORE: Maricopa County COVID-19 vaccine status updates

MORE: Arizona Dept. of Health COVID-19 vaccine prioritization

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

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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