Arizona weekly COVID-19 update adds 12,244 cases, 81 deaths – The Arizona Republic

Reported COVID-19 cases in Arizona declined last week, as did the percentage of tests returning positive for the virus, according to the state’s weekly update. 
Health officials on Wednesday added 12,244 new COVID-19 cases, down 9.3% from 13,501 the previous week, and 81 new known deaths over the weeklong period ending Aug. 6.
Arizona’s overall pandemic death rate since early 2020 is the third-highest nationwide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 data tracker, which separates New York City from New York state, says New York City has the highest rate and Mississippi ranks second, according to the latest update, with Arizona third, Alabama fourth and West Virginia fifth.
June and July saw relatively similar weekly case additions, in Arizona and Wednesday’s was the lowest reported since May. 
Case counts are still far below the winter, state data shows. Case numbers in recent months likely are not showing the full picture of infections as many more people have used at-home test kits and may not report positive results to their doctors or county health departments. 
Arizona, like other states, is seeing ongoing elevated cases largely driven by two contagious subvariants of the virus, BA.4 and BA.5, with BA.5 the more dominant of the two. It’s also likely contributing to reinfections and infections in people who have been vaccinated given its contagiousness and ability to evade antibodies. 
Residents in four of Arizona’s 15 counties should be wearing face masks indoors in public because of COVID-19 levels, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Aug. 18. Those counties were Navajo, Apache, Yuma and La Paz. 
The CDC’s “community level” guidance is updated weekly and ranks counties as low, medium and high, or green, yellow and orange. The seven Arizona counties designated as “medium” were Mohave, Cochise, Pinal, Gila, Graham, Santa Cruz and Greenlee. Maricopa, Pima, Coconino and Yavapai were “low” as of Aug. 18. 
The metrics are based on a county’s COVID-19 hospital bed use, COVID-19 hospital admissions and case rates for the virus over the past week.
Reported cases since the pandemic began are over 2.2 million. Known deaths in Arizona are at 30,982, according to state data. 
Wednesday marked the 25th of the weekly updates to the state’s data dashboard, instead of daily updates that Arizonans became accustomed to following for the latest data on infections, illnesses and deaths.
The previous week’s update added 13,501 cases and 59 deaths, compared with 15,034 cases and 74 deaths three weeks ago and 17,249 cases and 70 deaths four weeks ago. 
This week’s update shows the differences between data reported for the week of Aug. 7-13 and July 31-Aug. 6.
Health officials say weekly updates match how public health monitors trends and other disease reporting. 
Case numbers generally were relatively lower in the past couple of months, and public health experts estimate cases of the highly contagious omicron variant peaked in Arizona around mid-January.
The state data dashboard no longer shows key hospitalization information since Gov. Doug Ducey ended the COVID-19 emergency declaration March 30. State health officials said hospitals are no longer required to report some COVID-19 surveillance data to the state, meaning certain graphs showing weekly hospitalization levels for the disease and bed usage by COVID-19 patients are no longer updated.
At the time that data reporting stopped, hospitalizations for the disease had dropped steadily since late January.
The CDC still reports state hospitalization data for Arizona and showed a 0.4% increase in the seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions during Aug. 8-14 compared with Aug. 1-7. Hospital admissions last week were down 83.4% from the peak seven-day average in early January 2021. 
The number of known deaths in the state was at 30,982 as of Wednesday, after passing 30,000 known deaths in the May 4 update, 29,000 deaths in the March 30 update, 28,000 deaths in the March 9 update, 27,000 deaths on Feb. 10 and 26,000 deaths on Jan. 28. The state surpassed 25,000 deaths on Jan. 13. Deaths are now reported with a four-week lag. 
The CDC earlier this month relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines. Among other things, it dropped recommendations that Americans who are not up-to-date on vaccines quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person, USA Today reported on Aug. 11.
The CDC also says people who do test positive for the virus but show no symptoms or see symptoms improve quickly can isolate for a shorter period.
The state in December began publicly disclosing data on breakthrough COVID-19 infections, and state officials say the data underscores the effectiveness of the vaccine, especially for people with booster doses.
Data from June show that 23.3% of hospitalizations and 22.4% of COVID-19 deaths were among fully vaccinated people without a booster, with 47.3% of hospitalizations and 42.7% of deaths among unvaccinated people. Fully vaccinated people with a booster made up 29.4% of hospitalizations and 34.9% of deaths in June. 
The monthly data no longer includes a breakdown of cases by vaccination status, just hospitalizations and deaths. Health officials said that’s because testing changes, including more at-home testing, made that comparison “far less reliable.” 
The COVID-19 virus’ disproportionate impact on older adults, who are also more likely to have a booster dose, could help explain why a higher percentage of people who were fully vaccinated and boosted died of COVID-19 in June than those who were fully vaccinated and not boosted. The effectiveness of boosters also appears to wane after several months. But the precise explanation for those percentages of deaths is unclear.
Health officials emphasize the best protection against severe illness from COVID-19 is to remain up to date with recommended vaccinations, including second booster doses for those 50 and older and people who are immunocompromised.
As of July 13, there had been 2,057 breakthrough deaths in fully vaccinated individuals, according to state health officials’ preliminary data, which works out to a breakthrough death rate of about 0.04% among fully vaccinated people. 
Contagious omicron subvariants, particularly BA.5, are contributing to many of the cases in Arizona, according to results from sequencing labs.
Percent positivity, which refers to the percentage of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, varies somewhat based on how it’s measured. It was high in the winter months, a sign of more community spread. Then it was much lower but began climbing upward in April.
Arizona’s percent positivity for COVID-19 testing was at 3% for the week of April 3, 4% for the week of April 10, 5% for the week of April 17, 6% for the week of April 24, 8% for the week of May 1, 11% for the week of May 8, 15% for the week of May 15, 18% for the week of May 22, 21% for the week of May 29, 22% for the week of June 5, 23% for the week of June 12, 27% for the week of June 19, 26% for the week of June 26, 28% for the week of July 3, 29% for the week of July 10, 29% for the week of July 17, 27% for the week of July 24, 24% for the week of July 31 and 22% for the week beginning Aug. 7. The percentages are now for all diagnostic tests conducted, rather than for unique individuals tested, after a change to the state dashboard. 
A positivity rate of 5% or less is considered a good benchmark that the disease’s spread is under control.
The state’s overall COVID-19 death and case rates since Jan. 21, 2020, still remain among the worst in the country.
The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona since the pandemic began is 424 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC. The U.S. average is 310 deaths per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC
Arizona’s first known death from the disease occurred in mid-March 2020.
Many of the reported deaths occurred days or weeks before because of reporting delays and death certificate matching.
A total of 2,237,208 COVID-19 cases were identified across the state through Aug. 13.
Arizonans ages 6 months and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna vaccine is approved for children ages 6 months to 5 years and people 18 and older. The CDC has recommended the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on a more limited basis for people 18 and older. Many individuals are eligible for booster doses, too.
The state as of Wednesday was reporting that nearly 5.3 million people in Arizona — about 73.7% of the total state population — had received at least one vaccine dose through Aug. 13, with about 4.6 million residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state’s data dashboard now separates out doses administered to Arizona residents versus all doses administered in the state. 
Arizona’s rate of fully vaccinated people out of the total population was 62.9%, which was behind the national rate of 67.3%, according to the CDC as of Aug. 10. 
Out of people ages 5 and older, 66.8% of those in Arizona were fully vaccinated, compared with 71.5% at the national level, CDC data shows. 
Health experts strongly recommend booster shots for those eligible, especially with the omicron variant spreading. About 47.8% of fully vaccinated Arizonans over the age of 18 had received a first booster shot as of Aug. 10, below the national rate of 51.4% for that same age group. 
Reported cases in Arizona: 2,237,208, as of Aug. 13. 
Cases by county: 1,406,462 in Maricopa; 285,087 in Pima; 145,126 in Pinal; 66,857 in Yuma; 63,221 in Mohave; 53,939 in Yavapai; 48,900 in Coconino; 43,238 in Navajo; 35,375 in Cochise; 30,185 in Apache; 19,363 in Gila; 18,163 in Santa Cruz; 13,164 in Graham; 5,695 in La Paz; and 2,433 in Greenlee, according to state numbers. 
The rate of cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began is highest in Apache County, followed by Navajo, Gila, Santa Cruz, Graham and Coconino counties, according to state data. The rate in Apache County is 42,036  cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate since the pandemic began is 27,969 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, according to the CDC
The Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona reported 63,342 cases and 1,879 confirmed deaths as of Aug. 16. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 15,360 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the highest number in Tucson, with 2,471 confirmed cases. A total of 5,574 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Sixty-two incarcerated people in Arizona are confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 16 additional deaths under investigation. 
The race/ethnicity breakdown of cases since the start of the pandemic in 2020 is 40% white, 29% Hispanic or Latino, 5% American Indian, 4% Black and 2% Asian/Pacific Islander. Race/ethnicity of positive cases since the onset of the pandemic is unknown in 15% of cases and listed as other race in 6% of cases. 
Percent positivity was at 22% for the week of Aug. 7, slightly lower than previous weeks but still at a high level. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.
The state Health Department includes probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) use a nasal swab or another 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, Mayo Clinic officials said. They say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result.
Arizona as of Tuesday had the 14th highest overall case rate in of all U.S. states and territories since Jan. 21, 2020. Ahead of Arizona in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began are Alaska, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Guam, Kentucky, New York City, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Delaware, according to the CDC
Arizona’s infection rate is 30,568 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. The national average is 27,969 cases per 100,000 people, although the rates in states hard hit early in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April 2020. 
Deaths by county: 17,726 in Maricopa; 3,947 in Pima; 1,711 in Pinal; 1,518 in Mohave; 1,258 in Yavapai; 1,194 in Yuma; 929 in Navajo; 620 in Apache; 590 in Cochise; 491 in Coconino; 392 in Gila; 237 in Santa Cruz; 182 in Graham; 148 in La Paz; and 39 in Greenlee. 
People age 65 and older make up 22,012 of the 30,982 deaths, or 71%. About 15% of deaths were among people 55-64 years old, 8% were 45-54 and 5% were 20-44 years old. 
While race/ethnicity was unknown for 4% of deaths, 56% of those who died were white, 26% were Hispanic or Latino, 7% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data shows. 
The global death toll as of Wednesday was 6,443,016. The U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 1,038,049, followed by Brazil at 681,763 and India at 527,134, according to Johns Hopkins University
Arizona’s 30,982 deaths represent about 3% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S,
Republic reporter Alison Steinbach contributed to this article
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