Arizona reports 595 new COVID-19 cases and a record low number of patients on ventilators

Stephanie Innes Arizona RepublicPublished 3:33 PM EDT Sep 22, 2020Arizona reported 595 new COVID-19 cases and

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Arizona reported 595 new COVID-19 cases and 20 new known deaths Tuesday, and the number of patients with the new coronavirus on ventilators dropped to a record low.

Identified cases rose to 214,846 and known deaths are at 5,498, according to the daily report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The number of patients hospitalized statewide for known or suspected COVID-19 rose slightly to 527 on Monday from 472 on Sunday. But overall hospitalization numbers appear to be stabilizing. During the peak of Arizona's COVID-19 surge, the number of hospitalized patients suspected or confirmed to have the virus exceeded 3,000.

Similarly, the number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in intensive care units across Arizona was 122 on Monday, up from from 119 on Sunday. It's still a considerable decrease from July when the numbers reached as high as 970.

Also, the number of Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators dropped to 47 on Monday from 57 on Sunday.  That is the lowest number that metric has been since the state began recording COVID-19 data on April 8. On that first day the data was collected, there were 133 people statewide on ventilators for confirmed or suspected COVID-19, the data shows.

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Arizona's COVID-19 death total is the 11th highest of any state in the country, Johns Hopkins University says. New York has had the highest death toll — 33,087.

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona was 76 per 100,000 people as of Monday, the Centers for Disease and Prevention reported, putting it 10th in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City and New York state. The U.S. average is 60 deaths per 100,000 people.

Behind New York City, at 283 deaths per 100,000 people, the CDC places the highest death rates ahead of Arizona (in order) as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Mississippi, the District of Columbia and New York state.

The Department of Health Services is including as probable cases anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine current infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) are a newer type of COVID-19 diagnostic test that use a nasal swab or other fluid sample to test for current infection. Results are typically produced within 15 minutes. 

A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there's an increased chance of false-negative results, the Mayo Clinic says. Depending on the situation, Mayo Clinic officials say the doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result.

Monday's dashboard shows 78% of inpatient beds and 78% of ICU beds in use on Monday, which includes people being treated for COVID-19 and other patients. COVID-19 patients were using 7% of all inpatient beds and 7% of ICU beds. Overall, 23% of ventilators were in use.

The number of weekly tests conducted dropped significantly in July and into August, after which it has remained flatter with slight decreases.

Of known test results from the past four weeks, 4% to 5% have come back positive, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona's seven-day moving average of percent positives at 6.1% and shows it has generally trended downward in recent weeks but has reached a plateau.

A positivity rate of 5% is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.

What you need to know about Monday's new numbers?

Reported cases in Arizona: 214,846.

Cases increased by 595, or 0.28%, from Monday's 214,251 identified cases since the outbreak began.

Cases by county: 140,314 in Maricopa, 24,798 in Pima, 12,594 in Yuma, 10,397 in Pinal, 5,751 in Navajo, 3,914 in Mohave, 3,777 in Coconino, 3,462 in Apache, 2,824 in Santa Cruz, 2,488 in Yavapai, 1,887 in Cochise, 1,247 in Gila, 797 in Graham, 536 in La Paz and 58 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people is highest in Yuma County, followed by Santa Cruz County, Navajo and Apache counties. 

The Navajo Nation reported 10,131 cases and 548 confirmed deaths as of Monday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Arizona Department of Corrections said 2,550 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, including 963 in Tucson; 39,495 inmates have been tested; 45 total test results are pending in the state prison system. Fourteen incarcerated people have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 14 additional deaths under investigation. 

Reported deaths: 5,498 known deaths. 

On Tuesday, 20 new deaths were reported, although some may have occurred days and weeks prior. 

County deaths: 3,275 in Maricopa, 617 in Pima, 344 in Yuma, 232 in Navajo, 223 in Mohave, 205 in Pinal, 163 in Apache, 133 in Coconino, 79 in Yavapai, 70 in Cochise, 63 in Santa Cruz, 52 in Gila, 24 in Graham, 15 in La Paz and fewer than three in Greenlee.

People aged 65 and older made up 3,919 of the 5,498 deaths, or 71%.

While race/ethnicity is unknown for 11% of deaths, 42% of those who died were white, 30% were Hispanic or Latino, 11% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander.

Reach health care reporter Stephanie Innes at or at 602-444-8369. Follow her on Twitter @stephanieinnes.

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