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The number of Coronavirus cases have continued to spike in recent weeks in both Arizona and across the country. At The Copper Courier, we’re committed to keeping you informed with the latest information about Arizona’s fight against COVID-19.

Arizona Reports Highest New COVID Cases Since August

Thursday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m.

Arizona on Thursday reported 5,442 additional known COVID-19 cases, 82 more deaths, and increased hospitalizations as the coronavirus surges in the state.

The additional deaths were the most reported in a single day since August but the state Department of Health Services said 46 resulted from reviews of past death certificates. It wasn’t immediately known whether those deaths occurred during the current surge this fall or earlier.

However, the pace of COVID-19-related deaths reported in Arizona has increased by 57% in the past two weeks.

According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in the state increased from 19.6 on Nov. 18 to 30.7 on Wednesday.

Reported daily deaths topped 100 on three days in August, including 104 reported on Aug. 26.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, Arizona has reported totals of 346,421 known cases and 6,821 deaths.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations across Arizona totaled 2,743 on Wednesday, up from 2,699 on Tuesday and including 642 patients in intensive care unit beds.

Hospital officials and public health experts have warned that the outbreak is on track to exceed the capacity of the state’s health care system this month unless more action is taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Doug Ducey has acknowledged the growing outbreak but declined to take several steps sought by advocates, including a statewide mask mandate. The governor has urged everyone to wear masks and called for better enforcements of existing restrictions on certain businesses and gatherings.

The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in Arizona rose in the past two weeks from 2,563 on Nov. 18 to 4,304 on Wednesday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

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.
Associated Press

Ducey: Arizona Case Numbers ‘Headed in the Wrong Direction’

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 4 p.m.

As Arizona grapples with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey said during a media briefing Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to implement any statewide precautionary measures as has been done in other states. Instead, he announced the vaccine would be provided at no cost in addition to pledging support for restaurants and hospitals.

The number of new COVID-19 cases have grown in recent weeks with a record 10,322 new cases reported the Tuesday following the Thanksgiving holiday. More than 26,000 new cases have been reported since Thursday.

“The numbers in Arizona are heading in the wrong direction,” Ducey said.

Ducey seemed to place his hopes on the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, which he said Arizona could see by late December. He then made an executive order stating that the vaccine will be made available to Arizonans at no cost.

“This is a pandemic and the vaccine should not cost Arizonans a penny,” he said.

Additional details about distribution will be released later this week, but Ducey noted priority will be placed on getting it to educators, health care workers, residents of long term care facilities, and vulnerable populations.

Read More on the COVID Vaccine in Arizona

He also announced a number of other executive orders, including a new requirement that local jurisdictions must publicly announce any public events with more than 50 people event and post details of the enhanced mitigation strategies that will be used at the event on their website.

Safety concerns have risen recently as Arizona has hosted tournaments involving increasing numbers of out-of-state teams as the number of new COVID cases increase statewide. The Phoenix City Council is expected to make a decision on whether future events scheduled in the coming months should be canceled as soon as Wednesday.

The second order focused on allowing restaurants to expand their outdoor dining areas by pledging more than $1 million in support.

Ducey addressed repeated calls for a mask mandate and a curfew, saying that he believes enacting something statewide is not the best route. Instead, the priority should be on enforcing existing city and county mandates.

“I believe we should instead focus on accountability and enforcing the rules we have in place now and taking a targeted approach to ensure we all participate in the safety precautions we know work,” he said.

The night before, the Tucson City Council voted to implement a nightly curfew starting Friday through Dec. 22. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero has repeatedly called out Ducey for failing to take action.

Ducey questioned during the Wednesday briefing how Romero planned to enforce the curfew when “she won’t enforce the steps already in place.”

Ducey announced an additional $60 million investment in hospital staffing—in addition to the $25 million pledge earlier this month—for a total of $85 million. He said the additional funds will provide an additional 500 nurses through the end of the year and additional staffing through January.

Tucson Enacts Nightly Curfew in Hopes of Cutting Down COVID-19 Spread

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 9 a.m.

As cases increase statewide, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero held a press conference Monday afternoon announcing that the city council will consider implementing a curfew during an emergency meeting Tuesday.

The proposed curfew would run from 8 p.m.-5 p.m. starting Dec. 1 through Dec. 22. Romero also asked for Gov. Doug Ducey to enact a statewide mask mandate and a statewide curfew.

“The reality is that we have waited, and waited, and despite a huge surge, we have not seen any meaningful action from Governor Ducey,” Romero said in a tweet. “It is in the absence of this statewide direction that we now have to act locally.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported a record 10,322 new cases Tuesday with 48 additional deaths.

While Tuesday’s numbers are the highest to date, ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said the exceptionally high numbers, which are more than double the previous record, can be attributed to delays caused by the Thanksgiving weekend and includes multiple days of test results.

“While today’s higher numbers have a simple explanation due to the long weekend, the numbers are still trending in a concerning direction, especially considering that the number of holiday parties and gatherings are expected to increase over the next few weeks,” she wrote in a blog post before Tuesday’s update.

Tuesday’s numbers bring the state’s total to 337,138 cases and 6,687 deaths. More than 26,000 new cases have been reported since Thursday.

Monday, Nov. 30, 9:30 a.m.

Scottsdale Schools Closed Monday After Holiday; Researchers Urge State to Implement Restrictions

Multiple Scottsdale schools were closed Monday due to a lack of staffing following the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Scottsdale Unified School District announced that Arcadia High School, Chaparral High School, Desert Mountain High School, Cocopah Middle School, and Mountainside Middle School would be closed as there were not enough teachers or substitutes to cover the number of absences, according to a letter distributed to local parents.

In the letter, Superintendent Scott Menzel also asked families to “voluntarily quarantine if you and your students traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday or if you hosted or attended a large gathering beyond your immediate family.”

The district said school would resume as normal Monday. Menzel noted that Monday’s closure was not due to a COVID outbreak.

State hospital officials pleaded for people to avoid large Thanksgiving dinners as soaring coronavirus infections put pressure on the state’s medical system.

As new cases continue to increase, the COVID Modeling Team at the University of Arizona urged the state Department of Health Services to takes steps such as ordering a three-week stay-home shutdown and implementing a statewide mask mandate.

On Monday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 822 new confirmed coronavirus cases and five new deaths, bringing the state’s totals to nearly 326,817 cases and 6,639 deaths.

The number of actual 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.

Wednesday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.

Arizona Hospital Officials Beg People to Stay Home This Thanksgiving

State hospital officials pleaded for people to avoid large Thanksgiving dinners as soaring coronavirus infections put pressure on the state’s medical system.

Banner Health, Arizona’s largest hospital chain, forecasts it will hit 125 percent of its licensed capacity around Dec. 4.

There are enough drugs, beds, ventilators, and protective gear to care for that many patients, but not enough staff, according to Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the system’s chief clinical officer.

“Every single time you go outside of your circle of people that you live with you are increasing your risk of either catching COVID or potentially spreading COVID,” Bessel said, urging people to limit their Thanksgiving dinners to those in their own homes or keep gatherings as small and short as possible.

Banner and other hospital groups are scrambling to bolster staff by hiring traveling nurses, training existing staff to work in intensive care units, bringing back recent retirees or scheduling trained administrators for shifts caring for patients. But they face stiff competition for available help as nearly the entire country experiences rising COVID-19 infections.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,544 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 51 new deaths, bringing the state’s totals to nearly 307,000 cases and 6,515 deaths. Tuesday was the fourth time in six days that Arizona reported more than 4,000 new infections.

The number of actual 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.

Tuesday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.

Pima County Implements Voluntary Curfew

Pima County health officials are asking residents to observe a voluntary 10 p.m. curfew in hopes of discouraging people from going to restaurants, bars, and other locations that could be risky for the spread of COVID-19 as the number of new cases surge statewide.

Aaron Pacheco, a spokesman for the Pima County Health Department, said Monday that a voluntary curfew was pursued because the agency doesn’t have the power to order a curfew, so it’s doing all it can to lessen the risk.

“This is the extent of our capacity to do so—to ask kindly,” Pacheco said.

Pima County isn’t allowed to make its curfew mandatory because an executive order issued early in the pandemic by Gov. Doug Ducey bars local officials from taking steps beyond what he has required.

The voluntary curfew will run through Dec. 31. It was announced a day after the county had its highest daily total virus infections since the pandemic began.

Officials reported 2,659 new COVID-19 cases but no additional deaths Monday. In all, there have been more than 302,000 reported virus cases resulting in 6,464 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 also continue to rise with more than 2,000 people now occupying hospital beds.

Monday, Nov. 23, 3 p.m.

Ducey: Arizona Could See COVID-19 Vaccine in December

Gov. Doug Ducey announced in a tweet Monday that Arizona could see the COVID-19 vaccine start to be administered in December.

“AZ is working closely with health officials & private sector partners to ensure a quick & effective distribution of the #COVID19 vaccination. We’ve enrolled hundreds of providers who are ready to administer the vaccine, & we expect doses on the ground in mid to late December,” Ducey wrote.

The vaccine won’t immediately available to everyone, though.  According to a vaccine plan released in October, the first dose would be distributed among the health departments in each county in addition to 600 tribal facilities. From there, it will be sent to a number of pre-designated hospitals, pharmacies and other facilities to be used on “prioritized target groups,” which include healthcare workers, essential employees and individuals at increased risk.

It’s likely the vaccine won’t be available to the wider population until the spring of 2021. 

Monday, Nov. 23, 8 a.m.

Navajo Nation Reports Peak High of 383 New COVID-19 Cases

The Navajo Nation is reporting 383 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, an all-time high for the reservation that stretches through parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Tribal health officials on Sunday announced the latest daily figure of new cases as well as five more coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of known cases now stands at 15,039, including 42 delayed reported cases.

The death toll for the Navajo Nation is now up to 631.

Tribal health officials said 147,793 people have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 8,131 have recovered.

The Navajo Nation is currently under a three-week stay-at-home order. Only essential workers are allowed to come and go. Others are permitted to travel in cases of emergency or for essentials.

President Jonathan Nez is urging households not to have anyone over during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, Nov. 20, 9 a.m.

State Doubles-Down on School Mask Requirements

The Arizona Department of Health Services issued an emergency measure mandating that masks must be worn on school campuses, buses, and any school-associated activities.

The measure, which was first announced by Gov. Doug Ducey during a media briefing Wednesday, applies to all students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors.

It also requires schools to implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies, based on the school benchmarks, to keep students and staff safe on campuses. These mitigation strategies include mask-wearing, physical distancing, increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols, limiting the size of groups, and increased hand hygiene.

The order comes as numerous school districts across the state announce they will be switching entirely to online learning as the number of coronavirus cases surge. DHS reported 4,471 new cases and additional 43 deaths Friday. The state’s case total increased to 291,696.

Thursday, Nov. 19, Noon

Arizona Sees Over 4,000 Virus Cases for 1st Time Since July

Arizona on Thursday reported 4,123 additional known COVID-19 cases—the most in a single day since July.

The Department of Health Services also reported 19 additional deaths due to the coronavirus outbreak as the overall death toll rose to 6,384. The state’s case total increased to 287,225.

Arizona last topped 4,000 new cases in July during a summer surge that made the state a national hot spot after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed business closings and stay-home restrictions.

Arizona’s outbreak lessened in August and September after local governments implemented masking mandates and Ducey instituted restrictions on some businesses.

The virus surged again in October and into November, with over 41,000 new cases reported since Nov. 1. State and public health officials cite school and business reopenings and public weariness with anti-virus precautions.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations continue to increase, with just under 1,800 reported as of Wednesday. That is about three times as many as the state had in September and about half as many as at the summer surge’s peak.

Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m.

Ducey Says End of COVID in Arizona is ‘Not on Horizon’

Gov. Doug Ducey doubled down on existing restrictions during a media briefing Wednesday in an attempt to address the recent surge of Coronavirus cases, but failed to implement any other public health safety measures that have been put in places in other states.

“I know many in our state are asking: When will it end? The answer is that’s not on the horizon,” Ducey said. “Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency.”

However, Ducey and State Health Director Dr. Cara Christ came short of implementing a statewide mask mandate despite repeated calls from local officials. They did pledge more money for public service announcements to encourage mask wearing.

Ducey, who was unmasked throughout the briefing, addressed the opposition some had to wearing masks. While the majority of Americans support wearing masks, Ducey characterized the controversy as a conflict between two “camps” with one group calling for a complete lockdown and the other calling the pandemic a hoax. Most people are somewhere in the middle, Ducey said, and so is he. He said “90%” of the state has a mask mandate in place when questioned why he didn’t implement any statewide order, which has already been done in 30 states.

“What I want to avoid is some of the division and politics that have happened around this issue,” Ducey said. “To me, the pinnacle is participation and cooperation. From what I’ve seen and heard, we’re having lots of that in Arizona.”

Ducey and Christ instead encouraged Arizonans to continue wearing masks and announced AZDHS will release “common sense” guidance on how to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The Centers for Disease Control has already provided guidance how to safely enjoy the holiday, including wearing a mask and celebrating only with those in your household.

“I can’t stress this enough: We recommend that all Arizonans wear masks in every setting, including public settings, public transportation, at indoor and outdoor events and gatherings, and in private settings,” Christ said.

Christ said she will work with Phoenix Sky Harbor, Tucson International and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway to launch voluntarily testing sites at the airports, allowing for any visitors to get tested immediately.

Ducey didn’t implement additonal safety measures when it comes to schools, either.

“Despite the best efforts of teachers and parents, no one can argue kids have already missed out on far too much learning due to this pandemic,” Ducey said.

He did announce that an emergency measure will be issued to ensure masks are worn on school busses and grounds.

Ducey expressed hope for a COVID vaccine, which Arizona could see by the end of the year. Christ confirmed that the state will prioritize getting the vaccine to healthcare workers, first responders, and vulnerable populations. The vaccine likely won’t be available to the general public until spring 2021.

Wednesday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.

Cases, Deaths Continue to Surge Ahead of Ducey Press Conference

Arizona reported 3,206 new coronavirus cases and 53 new deaths Wednesday. The state has already seen more new cases in November so far than all of October.

Gov. Doug Ducey plans to discuss the rising case numbers during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon. This will be his first time speaking to the media and public since the election. It’s not clear what he will say, but several local and state officials have called for the Governor to enact a statewide mask mandate and other preventative measures as cases surge throughout the state and country.

The Associated Press contributed to these reports.