Photo by Jake Hines Dr. Melissa Zukowski, an Emergency Department Medical Director at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The vaccines are among the first to be distributed by Banner Health in Pima County.
Photo by Jake Hines

Bookmark this page for the latest on what’s happening with COVID-19 in Arizona

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.

Tuesday, March 16, 1 p.m.

More Than 1 Million Arizonans Are Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Arizona crossed a milestone Tuesday as more than 1 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Arizona Department of Health Services announced Tuesday that 1,007,600 Arizonans had received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

More than 2.5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to 1.6 million people across the state since the first doses of the vaccine arrived in Arizona in December.

Vaccine supply has been steadily increasing in the last few weeks, and President Joe Biden has pledged to make all American adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1. 

Arizona plans to open up vaccinations to everyone 16 years and older by May 1, ADHS said in a press release Tuesday.

“Of the many important milestones reached to date, this one is especially significant because it’s individuals who now have the full benefit of vaccination against COVID-19,” the state’s public health director Dr. Cara Christ said in a statement.

As of Tuesday, nearly 700,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered at the state-run mass-vaccination sites, including more than 500,000 doses just at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

Vaccines are currently available to healthcare workers, teachers, law enforcement workers and people 55 and older in most parts of the state. In recent weeks, transit workers and other essential workers have become eligible to receive vaccines in Maricopa County.

For information about who is register for appointments in Pima County and where to book, visit www.pima.gov/covid19vaccine. For information on how to book appointments at one of the four state-run vaccination sites, visit the Arizona Department of Health Services online portal at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

Thursday, March 11, 2 p.m.

Vaccines Open to All Essential Workers, People Ages 55+ in Pima County Starting Tomorrow

All frontline essential workers and people 55 and older in Pima County will be able to register for vaccine appointments starting Friday, March 12 at 9 a.m.

Previously, the county was prioritizing essential workers like teachers and individuals 65 years and older to be vaccinated. It did not include restaurant workers, grocery store employees or U.S. Postal Service or transit employees.

The move comes after the Arizona Department of Health Services announced last week that local county health departments could begin prioritizing frontline essential workers to be vaccinated.

On Wednesday, Maricopa County announced that essential workers could begin receiving vaccines in Maricopa County.

Workers who are considered essential in Pima County include:

  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Manufacturing employees
  • Grocery store, convenience store, and carniceria workers
  • Restaurant and bar employees
  • U.S. Postal Service employees
  • Public transit workers
  • State and local government employees

The counties largest vaccination sites are currently scheduling appointments in April, according to a county press release.

“This is our biggest group of newly eligible people so far and we understand that people will be very eager to register for an appointment as this phase opens up,” Pima County’s public health director Dr. Theresa Cullen said in the release. “The challenge will be trying to get vaccine to the most vulnerable people in this group as so many register for their spot in line.”

The county said the current level of vaccine supply may not be enough to keep up with the initial demand among the essential worker category, and that it hopes to expand vaccine appointments to more essential workers as more vaccines become available.

Pima County will work directly with utility companies to provide vaccines for critical water, gas and electric utilities staff.

More than 323,800 vaccine doses have been administered to Pima County residents as of Wednesday.

For information about who is register for appointments in Pima County and where to book, visit www.pima.gov/covid19vaccine. For information on how to book appointments at one of the four state-run vaccination sites, visit the Arizona Department of Health Services online portal at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

Wednesday, March 10, 10 a.m.

Maricopa County Begins Opening Up Vaccines to All Essential Workers

All essential workers are now eligible to be vaccinated in Maricopa County, but not all of them will be able to get an appointment immediately, as the county waits on more vaccine supply.

Workers who are considered essential under the county’s new guidance include:

  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Restaurant and bar employees
  • Grocery store, convenience store, and carniceria workers
  • U.S. Postal Service employees
  • Public transit workers
  • State and local government employees
  • Manufacturing  employees

Workers in these groups are still not eligible to make an appointment at the three state-run vaccination sites in Maricopa County: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix and Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Chandler.

The county said Wednesday that it is partnering with large companies to let eligible employees know about vaccine events. The county will partner with Valley Metro, the City of Phoenix, the Phoenix Union School District, Albertson’s, and Safeway to put on weekend vaccination events for transit and postal workers.  

Some restaurant groups have already partnered with healthcare providers for vaccine appointments. The county did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday about which restaurant groups or healthcare providers are included but said it would directly allocate vaccines to those providers. 

While eligible essential workers will likely still have to wait for appointments until more supply becomes available, the county recommends that frontline workers check with their employer before making an appointment at a public vaccination site, as they may have more information about how to secure a vaccine appointment.   

For more information on where to register for a vaccine appointment in Maricopa County and across the state, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

Monday, March 1, 4 p.m.

Arizonans 55 and Older Can Register for COVID-19 Vaccine Tomorrow

All Arizonans 55 and older are now eligible to register for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced Monday.

Registration for approximately 50,000 vaccination appointments at State Farm Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium will open at noon Tuesday.

Individuals 55 and older will also be able to schedule appointments at pharmacies and health centers that are administering the vaccine.

Appointments will still be available for previously approved priority groups, including healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, childcare workers, and law enforcement officers.

The Department of Health Services said Monday that it was opening up the vaccination to people 55 and older to ensure that individuals at high risk of “severe outcomes,” such as hospitalization and death, were able to get vaccinated.

Ninety percent of Arizona’s deaths from COVID-19 have been among those 55 and older and 65% of the people hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to ADHS.

“As more vaccine reaches Arizona, we will continue refining our plan to maximize the benefits of this still-limited resource,” ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said.

The department also announced Monday that local county health departments are now able to prioritize frontline essential workers based on available vaccines.

Groups like grocery store employees, food, and transportation workers are included in Phase 1B. However, they are not eligible to receive the vaccine in many parts of the state currently as they are not considered to be a “priority group.”

Some counties have already been vaccinating all essential workers, including Coconino and Yavapai counties. But Maricopa and Pima counties, the most populous counties in the state, have not.

Maricopa County did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday about how soon all essential workers can register to be vaccinated.

As of Monday, more than 1.8 million doses of vaccine had been administered to more than 1.2 million Arizonans.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Monday, Feb. 22, 9:30 a.m.

Arizona to Operate Fourth State-Run Vaccination Site at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Preventing Site’s Closure

Arizona will operate a state-run COVID-19 vaccination site at Chandler-Gilbert Community College — the state’s second state-run site in the East Valley — starting Wednesday, March 3.

Gov.Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services announced Monday that the state was taking over operation of the Chandler-Gilbert site, which has been managed by Dignity Health since the vaccines first arrived in Maricopa County.

The move would avoid the closure of the site, which was announced last Thursday. Marcy Flanagan, Maricopa County’s public health director, said the site was initially meant to vaccinate people in Phase 1A, which included healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

“They stayed open to help us during Phase 1B because of the great success they had,” Flanagan said.

Following the announcement of the closure, ADHS worked over the weekend to develop a plan to keep the location open, according to a press release issued Monday.

“We’re committed to making the COVID-19 vaccine accessible to all Arizonans. Keeping this successful vaccination site open and operating is an important step,” Governor Ducey said in the press release.

Dignity Health will operate the site through Friday and ADHS will reopen it on March 3.

The vaccination site will be the fourth state-run site and the third in Maricopa County, following State Farm Stadium in Glendale, which opened in January, and the Phoenix Municipal Stadium site in Phoenix, which opened earlier this month.

As of last week, over 15% of residents in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, had been vaccinated.

ADHS said in a statement that planning is underway for state-operated vaccine sites in northern and western Arizona.

Appointments for the Chandler-Gilbert site will open at 9 a.m. March 1. Due to the limited amount of vaccine doses, the Chandler-Gilbert vaccine site will operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to start.

At full capacity, this site can administer up to 12,000 vaccines per day and can be operated 24/7, similar to the State Farm Stadium site in Glendale.

Vaccine appointments are currently open to prioritized groups across the state, including healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, law enforcement officers, and people over the age of 65.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Wednesday, Feb. 17, 11 a.m.

More Than 15,000 Arizonans Have Died From COVID-19; Vaccine Shipment Delayed

The death toll of Arizonans from COVID-19 passed 15,000 on Wednesday, with the number of deaths more than doubling since Dec. 11.

The state had reported 7,245 deaths on Dec. 11 — 10 months after the first case of COVID-19 first appeared in the state in January.

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines in December heralded a new phase in the fight against coronavirus, but distribution has been slow, with only 13% of the state’s residents vaccinated as of Wednesday.

Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s director of health services, said the state’s vaccine rollout has been dependent on the limited supply of vaccine doses the state receives weekly from the federal government.

Upon taking office last month, President Joe Biden promised to boost the weekly supply of vaccines to states.

The state was expecting to receive 176,600 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines this week, however extreme winter weather across the country has delayed this week’s delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Arizona, causing some local health departments to cancel appointments for Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

ADHS recommended that residents living in rural Arizona communities scheduled to receive the Moderna vaccine reach out to their county health department to see if their appointments have been cancelled.

ADHS said Wednesday that all sites in Maricopa and Pima counties have enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine to maintain their operations, but a spokesperson for Pima County said the county is concerned about their level of vaccine supply for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

“We have contingency plans in place if our vaccine resupply is late or doesn’t come tomorrow,” Pima County spokesperson Aaron Pacheco said.

As deaths in the state continue to rise, Gov. Doug Ducey has not addressed the public about the pandemic in two months. The governor’s last public briefing to the public was held on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office told The Arizona Republic that the governor is instead holding several one-on-one conversations with media outlets in lieu of having news conferences.

Tuesday, Feb. 16, 9 a.m.

Vaccines Available at More Than 200 Pharmacies Across Maricopa County, New State Site In Tucson

Appointments are now open at the new state vaccination site at the University of Arizona, southern Arizona’s first 24/7 state vaccination site.

The state has added nearly 12,000 appointments at the site starting Thursday through March 6.

The vaccination site, which is located at the university’s mall area, will eventually operate 24/7 and can vaccinate up to 6,000 people per day at full capacity. 

The vaccination site at UA will be the third state-run site, following State Farm Stadium in Glendale, which opened in January, and the Phoenix Municipal Stadium site in Phoenix, which opened last week.

Registration for appointments at the site opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

A Spanish version of the site will also be available for new appointment registrations, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

On Tuesday, Maricopa County also went live with a list of more than 200 pharmacies across the county where vaccines are available under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Vaccine appointments are now available at Walgreens pharmacies and grocery stores like Fry’s, Albertsons and Safeway.

Vaccine appointments are currently open to prioritized groups across the state, including healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, law enforcement officers, and people over the age of 65.

Vaccines should become available to other essential workers and adults with high-risk conditions by the end of the month, according to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.

More than 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered so far to 925,763 Arizonans as of Monday. 

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 10 a.m.

University Of Arizona To Operate First 24/7 State Vaccination Site In Southern Arizona

Southern Arizona will see its first 24/7 state vaccination site at University of Arizona’s central Tucson campus beginning Thursday, Feb. 18. Appointments will open for the site on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Pima County officials, the second-most populous county in the state after Maricopa, said Wednesday in a press release that they were thrilled at the announcement.

“If this means there will be an increase in the number of vaccines coming to Pima County, then we will get more people vaccinated faster and get closer to bringing this terrible pandemic to end in Southern Arizona,” Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson said in a press release.

The vaccination site at UA will be the third state-run site, following State Farm Stadium in Glendale, which opened in January, and the Phoenix Municipal Stadium site in Phoenix, which opened last week.

A vaccination site was already being operated at UA, but appointments were only available to educators. The partnership with the state will allow for expanded capacity and hours of operation at the site, with plans for the site to eventually operate 24/7 as more vaccine doses arrive in Arizona. The site can vaccinate up to 6,000 people per day at full capacity, according to the state.

The state’s only other 24/7 vaccination site is at State Farm Stadium administers approximately 8,000 doses per day.

Registration for appointments at the new UA vaccination site will open at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, online at the state’s registration site, podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

Vaccine appointments in Pima County are currently open to frontline healthcare workers, public safety employees and first responders, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, teachers and childcare workers, and adults 70 and older, but the Arizona Department of Health Services is vaccinating people 65 and older at all of its state-run vaccination sites.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 9 a.m.

New Appointments Available at Phoenix Municipal Stadium Vaccination Site

The state has opened up 21,000 more appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at its new vaccination site at Arizona State University’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium, off of Priest Drive and Van Buren Street.

Appointments are available from Friday through Feb. 18, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. People who received their first dose of the vaccine at State Farm Stadium or Phoenix Municipal Stadium will have a guaranteed appointment for a second dose at the same site.

Vaccine appointments are currently open to prioritized groups, including healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, law enforcement officers, and people over the age of 65. Vaccines should become available to other essential workers and adults with high-risk conditions by the end of the month, according to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.

Department officials said the vaccine registration website has been updated to have the next available appointments show up immediately for users, instead of requiring them to search each day for appointments. 

Arizona residents have experienced problems with the state’s vaccine registration website since its launch, and heavy demand has caused some individuals to refresh the page regularly for several hours to find available appointments.

The state has administered more than 702,664 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 579,225 Arizonans, including 109,617 who received both doses as of Tuesday.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Monday, Feb. 1, 10 a.m.

Arizona Opens Second Vaccination Site At Phoenix Municipal Stadium

Arizona launched its second drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site at Arizona State University’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Monday morning.

The state said it was hoping to continue the model set by its first state-run vaccination site, State Farm Stadium in Glendale, which has already vaccinated more than 100,000 people since opening last month.

While State Farm Stadium has been open 24/7 and is able to vaccinate thousands of people a day, capacity at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium site will be limited to just 500 appointments a day, seven days a week between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s director of health services, said Monday that Phoenix Municipal Stadium has the ability to administer 10,000-12,000 doses a day, but can only do so once additional vaccine doses are available from the federal government.

The state recently asked the federal government for an additional 300,000 doses weekly, but the request was denied.

Last week, President Joe Biden promised to boost the weekly supply of vaccines to states. Next week, the state should receive a 16% increase in doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is typically reserved for rural communities outside of Maricopa and Pima counties, where storage requirements aren’t as strict, Christ said.

The vaccine is currently available to healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, law enforcement officers, and people over the age of 65. Vaccines should become available to other essential workers and adults with high-risk conditions by the end of the month, according to Christ.

On Monday, Christ administered second vaccine doses to several educators and state troopers, who received their first dose of the vaccine at the opening of State Farm Stadium.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Friday, Jan. 29, 5 p.m.

Arizona Reports First Cases of Faster Spreading UK COVID-19 Variant

The Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed Friday afternoon that a faster-spreading variant of COVID-19 from the United Kingdom was reported in three test samples in Arizona.

The UK identified this new COVID-19 strain — referred to as B.1.1.7 — in the fall, while initial cases were reported in the US last month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while this variant of COVID-19 spreads at a faster rate, studies have suggested that the vaccines currently in use are effective against the UK COVID-19 variant, ADHS said in a press release.

The release added that it’s unknown how widely the variant may have spread in Arizona, but the situation is being monitored.

Health Services recommends Arizonans continue wearing masks and social distancing to limit community spread of the virus.

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 12 p.m.

More Than Half A Million COVID-19 Vaccines Have Been Administered in Arizona

Arizona has administered more than half a million COVID-19 vaccines, just six weeks after the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in mid-December.

As of Wednesday morning, 518,125 doses have been administered to 430,673 individuals, including 79,026 who have received both doses, according to the Department of Health Services.

The 24/7 State Farm Stadium vaccination site in Glendale accounted for roughly 16% of all the doses administered statewide.

ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ called the State Farm Stadium site a success and said it had attracted the attention of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a model for 24/7 vaccination sites.

The state will open another state-run vaccination site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, near the Phoenix Zoo at Mill Avenue and Galvin Parkway, on Feb. 1. The Phoenix Municipal Stadium site will only be open during daytime hours.

Vaccine appointments are currently open to frontline healthcare workers, emergency services workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities educators and childcare workers, and adults 65 and older.

On Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey said he would accelerate the statewide distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and that the state would reallocate doses of vaccine to parts of the state where they would be most rapidly distributed.

In Maricopa County, appointments at the State Farm and Phoenix Municipal Stadium sites are booked through February, but eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Thursday, Jan. 21, 5 p.m.

Phoenix Union Partners With Tempe Union To Vaccinate Educators This Weekend

The Phoenix Union High School District has partnered with the Tempe Union High School District to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to educators on Friday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 23.

Vaccines will be available at four locations for all full- and part-time K-12 employees in the Phoenix Union and Tempe Union boundaries, including employees at private and charter schools within the areas.

The four vaccination sites will be located at:

  • Carl Hayden Community High School, 3333 W. Roosevelt St.
  • Central High School, 4525 N. Central Ave.
  • Cesar Chavez High School, 3921 W. Baseline Road.
  • Maryvale High School, 3415 N. 59th Ave.

Each site will be open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The district said in a press release that it plans to administer 1,500 vaccines each day.

Phoenix Union, which has nearly 4,000 employees and over 28,000 students, has yet to return to in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered schools last spring. District Superintendent Chad Gestson said in a statement Thursday the district would only return to in-person classes so when it was safe, reasonable, and responsible to do so.

Gestson said the district was “proud” to provide the vaccinations to thousands of educators.

“By expanding access to the vaccine to include all education employees in the PXU and TUHSD boundaries, we will expedite the safe return to full-time, in-person instruction for all students,” Gestson said.

Tempe Union returned to in-person classes in October, but pivoted back to virtual instruction on Nov. 30 after nearly 600 students and staff were forced to isolate or quarantine due to possible exposure on school campuses.

TUHSD Superintendent Kevin Mendivil said in a statement that it made sense to partner with PXU for the vaccination sites.

“Being part of the PXU [points of dispensing] means that our employees and other educators in the Tempe community will receive their first vaccine dose even quicker than anticipated,” Mendivil said. “This will bring peace of mind not only to our employee base, but also to our families and community at large.”

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 12 p.m.

Arizona Has Administered Over 300,000 COVID-19 Vaccines

Almost 320,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Arizona, with more than 100,000 doses distributed in the week since the state crossed the 200,000 milestone.

About 46,000 doses of those doses have been administered through the 24/7 State Farm Stadium vaccination site in Glendale, which opened last week. 

As of Wednesday, 319,984 doses of the vaccine had been administered across the state, including 44,004 people who had received both doses, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

In addition to the statewide testing locations at State Farm Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium, there are an additional 200 vaccination sites statewide, including 45 non-profit Community Health Centers which are open to anyone regardless of their insurance status.

The state could also see up to 100 pharmacies administering vaccines over the next few weeks, but the rollout will depend on the supply of vaccine doses the state receives weekly from the federal government.

“Arizona has been working to get these vaccines out of cold storage and into the arms of prioritized individuals,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a statement Wednesday.

February appointments for Maricopa County’s second vaccination site also opened Tuesday after the state’s 24/7 vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale saw overwhelming demand last week.

The new vaccine site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, near Galvin Parkway and Mill Avenue, will open for appointments on Feb. 1 and will be open during daytime hours. 

Within 14 hours of opening appointments at the two locations on Tuesday, all appointments had been booked for February.

Groups currently prioritized for this round of vaccinations include frontline healthcare workers, emergency responders, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, educators and childcare workers, and adults 65 and older.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at State Farm Stadium, Phoenix Municipal Stadium and at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m.

Appointments at State’s New COVID-19 Vaccination Site Open Tuesday

Appointments at Maricopa County’s second vaccination site opened Tuesday after the state’s first 24/7 vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale saw overwhelming demand last week.

The new vaccine site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, near the Phoenix Zoo at Mill Avenue and Galvin Parkway, will open for appointments on Feb. 1 and will be open during daytime hours. 

The number of appointments available at the site will depend on the number of vaccine doses available at that time, ADHS said in a press release last week.

Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement Thursday that the new site would dramatically boost the number of Arizonans who can get the vaccine.

“This week has demonstrated Arizonans are ready for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Ducey said. We’re going to do our part to make sure they get it.”

Registration for February appointments at both Phoenix Municipal Stadium and State Farm Stadium opened Tuesday at 9 a.m., but individuals immediately began reporting problems with the website used to schedule appointments.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said there was extremely heavy demand for the online scheduling system Tuesday morning and advised individuals to refresh the page regularly and look beyond Feb. 14 for available appointments.

In response to the Department of Health Services, several people said they were able to book appointments after repeatedly refreshing the page and searching through different available dates.

Another user asked that the state open a third site for vaccinations in the East Valley, citing the large number of senior living communities in the area.

“That is a long way for an older driver,” the user wrote. “Better yet, figure out a mobile site and rotate amongst these communities so they don’t have to drive anywhere.”

Last week, the Maricopa County Public Health department said its vaccine registration page was “overwhelmed” as appointments began opening up for teachers, service workers, child care workers, and seniors 75 years and older.

Starting Tuesday, roughly 750,000 Arizonans 65 and older will be eligible to register for the vaccine across the state, according to ADHS.

As of last Wednesday, 12,570 people had been vaccinated at the State Farm Stadium site and nearly 190,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered across the state. On Tuesday, 134,656 doses of the vaccine had been administered in Maricopa County.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at State Farm Stadium, Phoenix Municipal Stadium and at other sites around the state by visiting https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. The Department of Health Services has advised that people use Firefox and Chrome browsers for the best experience.

People who do not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found  at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Thursday, Jan. 14, 11 a.m.

Arizona Opens Second Vaccination Site Near Phoenix Zoo After High Demand

Arizona will open a second vaccination site in Maricopa County after appointments at the State Farm Stadium 24/7 vaccination site in Glendale were fully booked through January.

Due to the strong demand for the vaccination, the Arizona Department of Health Services will open a new vaccine site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, near the Phoenix Zoo off Mill Avenue and Galvin Parkway.

Registration for February appointments at both Phoenix Municipal Stadium and State Farm Stadium will open at 9 a.m., Tuesday. The Phoenix Municipal Stadium site will open on Feb. 1 and will be open for daytime appointments. 

The number of appointments available at the site will depend on the number of vaccine doses available  at that time, ADHS said in a press release Thursday.

Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement Thursday that the new site would dramatically boost the number of Arizonans who can get the vaccine.

“This week has demonstrated Arizonans are ready for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Ducey said. “We’re going to do our part to make sure they get it.”

Earlier this week, the Maricopa County Public Health department said the vaccine registration page was “overwhelmed” as appointments began opening up for teachers, service workers, child care workers, and seniors 75 and older.

Roughly 750,000 Arizonans 65 and older will be eligible to register for the vaccine across the state starting Tuesday, according to ADHS.

As of Wednesday, 12,570 people have already been vaccinated at the State Farm Stadium site. Nearly 190,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered across the state. 

The state could also see up to 100 pharmacies administering vaccines over the next few weeks, but the rollout will depend on the supply of vaccine doses the state receives weekly from the federal government.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at State Farm Stadium and at other sites around the state at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. The Department of Health Services has advised that people use Firefox and Chrome browsers for the best experience.

People who do not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine

Monday, Jan. 11, 10 a.m.

Arizona’s 24/7 COVID-19 Vaccination Site Is Now Open for Appointments. Here’s How To Register

Registration is now open for teachers, service workers, child care workers, and seniors 75 years and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Maricopa County.

The state’s first 24/7 COVID-19 vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale also opened for appointments Monday. The stadium will open Monday afternoon for select law enforcement and protective service workers, but broad appointment availability will start on Tuesday for the second phase of the county’s vaccine distribution, according to the Department of Health Services.

Early Monday morning, the Maricopa County Public Health department said that its vaccine registration page was overwhelmed.

“We increased server capacity last week in preparation but demand has surpassed that capacity,” the department said in a tweet. “We are actively working on this and appreciate your patience.”

By 9 a.m., appointments at Maricopa County’s five points of dispensing, excluding the State Farm site, were fully booked, according to the department. The county said it was working to open additional sites, including pharmacy locations, to vaccinate people 75 years and older.

As of Monday, 78,766 people in Maricopa County had received the COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 150,000 people in the state had received the vaccine as of Sunday.

By 10 a.m., the Department of Health Services said that 10,000 Arizonans had successfully registered for a vaccine appointment on Monday.

Eligible residents can sign up to receive the vaccination at State Farm Stadium and at other sites around the state at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov. The Department of Health Services has advised that people use Firefox and Chrome browsers for the best experience.

After signing up for an account on the health services portal, individuals will be asked to answer a series of questions related to their age, employment, underlying medical conditions, and living situations.

Eligible residents will then be able to access a calendar to schedule an appointment at one of the county’s points of dispensing. Individuals can also schedule appointments for relatives or dependents, including older family members or family without access to a computer. 

People who do not have access to a computer can call 1-844-542-8201 to make an appointment. Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found  at azhealth.gov/findvaccine

After the soft launch of the site this week, the state will be able to immunize thousands of Arizonans around the clock, according to Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s director of health services.

“It will help meet the growing demand for COVID-19 vaccine in Arizona as we move into our priority Phase 1B and beyond,” Christ said in a statement.

Friday, Jan. 8, 1 p.m.

Maricopa County Opens 24/7 Vaccination Site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, home of the Arizona Cardinals, will become a 24/7 vaccination site starting next week as the county readies to begin vaccinating teachers and other essential workers as part of its second phase of vaccine distribution.

Teachers, service workers, child care workers, and seniors 75 years and older will be able to sign up for vaccinations during the second phase starting Monday, Jan. 11.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Governor Doug Ducey’s Office announced the new vaccine site on Friday. State Farm Stadium will be able to vaccinate thousands more people in Maricopa County every day, according to a statement from ADHS.

“Our new vaccine site in Glendale will rapidly expand the number of Arizonans getting vaccinated,” Ducey said Friday in a statement. “We need to get these vaccine doses out of freezers and into the arms of Arizonans who want it, and our new site will speed up that process.”

Arizona reported 11,658 new cases of COVID-19 and 197 deaths on Friday, according to the state’s data dashboard.

As of Friday, 123,862 Arizonans had received the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, 2,127 people had received their second dose and were fully vaccinated.

The state was able to open the site as part of a partnership between the state and the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, the Arizona Cardinals, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, and Arizona State University. A $1 million grant from the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, which supports research and efforts to find a cure for brain cancer, will cover operational costs at the State Farm Stadium vaccination site, ADHS said in its statement.

The State Farm vaccination site will be staffed by volunteers with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. In addition to loaning out the stadium, the Arizona Cardinals have provided the tents, technical assistance, and other critical support, ADHS said in its statement.

“This was a real collaborative effort,” Ducey said in a statement Friday. “It underscores what can be accomplished by working together to confront the most serious public health crisis of our lifetime.”

Individuals eligible to receive the vaccine in the county’s second phase will be able to register for appointments starting Monday. Visit azhealth.gov/findvaccine, for information on where to register for an appointment. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination throughout the state, visit azhealth.gov/COVID19vaccine

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 10 a.m.

Teachers, Seniors, and Police Officers Able To Sign Up For Vaccine in Maricopa County Starting Next Week

Maricopa County will open up vaccinations for the second phase of eligible individuals next week, including teachers, people 75 years and older, childcare workers, police officers, and protective service workers.

As of Wednesday, the state’s most populous county had administered 62,068 doses of the vaccine to healthcare workers, emergency responders, and long-term care residents in the first phase.

Some of the first healthcare workers in the state to receive the vaccine last month, including the state’s director of health services Dr. Cara Christ, received the required second dose of their vaccines on Wednesday morning at the Department of Health Services.

Maricopa County is currently administering vaccines at three points of dispensing. Individuals can only receive the vaccine through appointment.

Information on where the vaccines will be distributed and how to apply for a spot will be available on the county’s website next week. More points of dispensing will be made available as appointments and vaccines become available. 

Tuesday, Dec. 30, 9 a.m.

Arizona Vaccination Priorities Include People 75 and Older

A state committee of public health experts decided that Arizonans 75 and older should be among those prioritized in the second phase of distribution of vaccinations against COVID-19, Gov. Doug Ducey’s office announced Tuesday.

Older Arizonans are more likely to experience severe COVID-19 complications and be hospitalized than younger individuals and the committee’s decision Monday to prioritize those people is aligned with updated recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ducey’s office said in a statement.

The prioritization of people 75 and older means those people most at risk will get vaccinated sooner, both protecting them and “relieving the strain on our hardworking health care professionals,” Ducey said in the statement.

The first phase of groups prioritized for vaccinations include front-line health care providers, emergency medical service workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Vaccinations of those groups is underway.

Along with people 75 and older, the groups’ recommendation for prioritization in the second phase includes teachers, child care providers, law enforcement personnel, and corrections workers.

The state anticipates that vaccinations of the second-phase groups will begin by late January but some counties may begin earlier, the statement said.

— Associated Press

Monday, Dec. 29, 9 a.m.

Number of COVID-19 Cases Exceeds 500,000

The number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona since the pandemic began has now surpassed 500,000 as hospitals deal with a record high of hospitalizations.

The Arizona Department of Health Services Monday reported 10,086 new coronavirus cases and 42 related deaths. The total number of cases now stands at 504,423 and the total deaths at 8,469.

The agency also reported 1,007 intensive care unit patients with COVID-19, the highest that figure has ever been. Only 9% of ICU beds statewide remain available.

COVID-19 patients account for 4,390 hospitalizations overall, which is also an all-time high.

Daily cases have been much higher in December, while deaths have been much lower than the triple-digit daily death tolls reported in July.

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.

Several health care organizations have called on Gov. Doug Ducey to implement stricter measures including closing bars and nightclubs and temporarily banning indoor dining. The governor has resisted such calls. Ducey has said he will not take actions that result in more people losing their jobs.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

— Associated Press

Tuesday, Dec. 22, 12 p.m.

Arizona Crosses 8,000 COVID-19 Deaths As Cases Continue to Climb

Arizona crossed a new milestone in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday as the state reported the number of deaths officially surpassed 8,000.

The state reported 5,859 new cases of COVID-19 and 153 more deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 467,215 and 8,125 deaths.

The updated number of deaths comes less than two weeks after the state surpassed 7,000 deaths on Dec. 9—a 15% percent increase in the state’s total number of deaths in less than two weeks.

The rising number of cases is alarming to healthcare professionals and hospital officials around the state. Pima County officials said Monday that its healthcare system would be overwhelmed in three weeks if the current rate of infection continues.

COVID-19 cases in Pima County for the month of December were on track to surpass the combined number of cases from March through October, the county health department said Monday.

“Without significant changes in community activity, there will be continued growth in positive COVID cases and hospitalizations throughout December, resulting in preventable morbidity and mortality in our county population,” the health department said in a statement.

But relief is hopefully on the way, as the state received its second shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, including the first doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Arizona had received approximately 58,500 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week and began distributing them to frontline healthcare workers, emergency medical responders, and long-time care residents and staff. 

The next phase of the vaccines will be distributed to essential workers like public safety employees and teachers followed by adults older than 65 and with high-risk conditions in the following phases.

Maricopa County plans to vaccinate approximately 123,000 people in the first phase, according to Marcy Flanagan, the county’s public health director.

As of Tuesday, Maricopa County had distributed 8,175 doses of the vaccine at five points of dispensing.

Eligible workers in both counties can only receive the vaccine through appointment.

— Lorraine Longhi

Thursday, Dec. 17, 12 p.m.

Arizona Begins Rolling Out First Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Across the State

Arizona began distributing the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday to healthcare workers and emergency medical responders across the state, after receiving initial doses earlier this week.

In Pima County, healthcare professionals received their first doses of the vaccine from Banner University Medical Center in Tucson.

Among the first to receive the vaccine were Dr. Melissa Zukowski and Dr. Christian Bime, both doctors at the hospital.

Dr. Melissa Zukowski, an Emergency Department Medical Director at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The vaccines are among the first to be distributed by Banner Health in Pima County.
Photo by Jake Hines

Bime, an ICU medical director at Banner, said it was important to educate the public about the importance of getting the vaccine. On Thursday, he said he was trying to lead by example.

“It’s one of the tools that we will use to defeat this,” Bime said of the vaccine.

In Maricopa County, several healthcare professionals, first responders, and a National Guardsman received the vaccine on Wednesday at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory.

Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s director of health services, also received the vaccine. Christ said her decision to get vaccinated was so she could do her part to protect her colleagues who provide critical infrastructure in the state’s COVID-19 response.

“When your place in line arrives, I urge you to get vaccinated,” Christ said. “These vaccines are a way for us to return to normal lives free from COVID-19.”

On Thursday, both Maricopa and Pima counties opened two PODs, or points of dispensing, to administer vaccines.

Eligible workers in both counties can only receive the vaccine through appointment. A pre-screening process began last week in Maricopa County to set up appointments for eligible employees.

The vaccine will be distributed in phases, with the first round going to healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, and emergency medical responders. It will then be distributed to essential workers like public safety employees and teachers, and adults older than 65 and with high-risk conditions in the following phases.

Maricopa County plans to vaccinate approximately 123,000 people in the first phase, according to Marcy Flanagan, the county’s public health director. As of Wednesday morning, approximately 13,000 people had registered for the vaccine through the pre-screening process.

Read More About the COVID Vaccine in Arizona

The county is expected to open three more PODs next week.

The vaccine likely won’t be released to the general public until March or April, though it could be distributed sooner as production ramps up in the coming months.

After the first stage of vaccinations, the county will work with pharmacies and large employers to administer vaccines to their employees, according to Flanagan.

Dr. Christian Bime, an ICU Medical Director at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, sits in his car after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17, 2020. The vaccines are among the first to be distributed by Banner Health in Pima County.
Photo by Jake Hines

In Pima County, Banner University Medical Center and the Tucson Medical Center will serve as the two points of dispensing for the initial vaccinations.

As more vaccines come in, more locations will potentially open, according to Spencer Graves, the logistic manager for the Pima County Health Department.

But the points of dispensing require a significant amount of staffing and other resources, so the county is currently working out how to vaccinate staff at community health providers and deliver them doses of the vaccine to administer on their own.

“What we’re really trying to do is get it out to the community providers as soon as possible so they can start working with their networks on getting whatever is necessary in place,” Graves said. “It’ll reduce the need for these larger POD sites.”

— Lorraine Longhi

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 11 a.m.

‘Tomorrow’s A Big Day’: Arizona Counties Prepare for Vaccine Distribution

Arizona’s counties are preparing to distribute the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare workers and emergency medical responders after having received the doses earlier this week.

“Tomorrow’s a big day,” Fields Moseley, communications director for Maricopa County, said in a press conference Wednesday morning.

On Thursday the county will open two PODs, or points of dispensing, to administer vaccines, including a Banner Health location at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

Eligible workers can only receive the vaccine through appointment. A pre-screening process began last week to set up appointments for eligible employees.

The vaccine will be distributed in phases with the first round going to healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, and emergency medical responders. It will then be distributed to essential workers like public safety employees and teachers, and adults older than 65 and with high-risk conditions in the following phases.

The state plans to vaccinate approximately 123,000 people in the first phase, according to Marcy Flanagan, the county’s public health director. As of Wednesday morning, approximately 13,000 people had registered for the vaccine through the pre-screening process.

On Thursday, vaccine distributions will be held at two sites: Banner Health University Medicine and the Tucson Medical Center.

The county is expected to open three more PODs next week.

The vaccine likely won’t be released to the general public until March or April, though it could be distributed sooner as production ramps up in the coming months.

After the first stage of vaccinations, the county will work with pharmacies and large employers to administer vaccines to their employees, according to Flanagan.

Flanagan called the vaccines a “point of light at the end of a tunnel,” but said the public needed to stay vigilant in adhering to mask-wearing, social distancing and refraining from attending large gatherings.

Pima County announced Wednesday its director of public health had tested positive for COVID-19, as part of an apparent outbreak in the health department.

The county’s chief medical officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said the outbreak was the result of substantial spread of the virus throughout the community.

“The virus can get into your homes and places of work any number of ways no matter how vigilant you are being with your precautions,” Garcia said in a statement.

— Lorraine Longhi

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 3 p.m.

More than 15,000 Pima County Residents Caught COVID-19 After the Voluntary Curfew. Now It’s Mandatory

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to impose a mandatory curfew throughout Pima County to curb the spiking cases of COVID-19 throughout the county.

The curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The move comes after the Board of Supervisors implemented a voluntary curfew on Nov. 24. More than 15,000 people throughout the county have since tested positive for COVID-19 and 93 have died, according to the Pima County Health Department.

The curfew will remain in effect until the county’s rate of transmission falls below 100 cases per 100,000 population, according to the Health Department. The county’s current rate of transmission is 357 per 100,000.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry presented a report to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that found more than a quarter of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the county in the last month visited a dine-in restaurant or bar in the past two weeks, according to county investigations and contact tracing.

The contract tracing of 3,273 COVID-19 positive residents also found that:

  • More than half had close contact with someone positive or suspected positive for COVID-19.
  • Almost two-thirds reported recently attending work, with many of the reported workplaces being at a healthcare, school, or daycare facility.
  • 15% attended a gathering with 10 or more people, either at a party, religious service, or at a restaurant or bar.
  • 16% reported having recently traveled.

Leaders of the Pima County Health Department, several county hospitals and the county fire district chiefs wrote a letter to the public on Dec. 11 asking them to stay home, wear a mask and avoid social gatherings.

“Hospital workers are exhausted and there is no end in sight, presently,” the letter read. “Without significant changes in community behavior, there will be continued growth in positive COVID cases and hospitalizations through the remainder of December.”

Individual enforcement of the curfew would be “impractical,” according to Huckelberry, so the county’s focus will be on making sure businesses that are serving customers during the curfew period are brought into compliance. The Board of Supervisors authorized the Pima County Health Department to suspend or revoke operating permits or licenses for any business in violation of the curfew.

The curfew comes after Arizona received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines Monday, signaling a new era in the state’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Pima County reported 798 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths on Tuesday, according to the state’s data dashboard. Arizona reported 4,134 new cases of COVID-19 and 64 new deaths.

— Lorraine Longhi

Monday, Dec. 14, 9 a.m.

First Batch of COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive in Arizona Monday

Maricopa County Public Health announced Monday it had received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, signaling a new era in the state’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona should receive approximately 384,350 doses of the vaccine by the end of the month. The first batch includes about 58,500 doses, to be distributed to Maricopa and Pima counties.

“The countdown to dispensing is on…” Public Health tweeted on Monday.

The vaccine will be distributed in phases with the first round going to healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents and emergency medical responders. It will then be distributed to public safety employees, teachers, and adults older than 65 and with high-risk conditions in the following phases.

The vaccine likely won’t be released to the general public until March or April, though it could be distributed sooner as production ramps up in the coming months.

Read More About the COVID Vaccine in Arizona

Arizona reported 11,795 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Monday. Last week the state had the highest rate of community spread of COVID-19 in the country, according to an online tracker of how fast the virus is spreading.

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey also announced the recipients of a $1 million grant to local Arizona chambers of commerce to implement programs that would accelerate local economic recovery related to COVID-19.

Thirty chambers of commerce across the state were awarded grant dollars, to be used for assisting small businesses with online branding and marketing and money for businesses to purchase cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.

— Lorraine Longhi

Friday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m.

Arizona Now Has The Highest Rate of COVID-19 Transmission in the Country

Arizona as of Friday had the highest rate of community spread of COVID-19 in the country, according to an online tracker of how fast the virus is spreading in each state.

The website, which uses data from The COVID Tracking Project, measures “R-naught,” or the average number of people who become infected by another person in each state. The higher the number, the more difficult it is to control the spread of the virus. 

If a state’s R-naught is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. It will stop spreading if it’s below 1.0.

Arizona had an R-naught rate of 1.22 as of Friday morning, the highest in the country.

The state reported 6,983 new cases of COVID-19 and 91 more deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 394,512 and the number of deaths to 7,245.

Some lawmakers and elected officials on Friday criticized the state’s management of the pandemic in recent months, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who said Gov. Doug Ducey had taken no new action to slow the spread.

“Keep your family safe,” Sinema wrote. “Wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid gatherings.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero tweeted Friday morning that the R-naught indicator was a key metric that the governor has said he was monitoring to determine if further mitigation efforts were necessary.

Earlier this summer, Ducey touted Arizona’s R-naught number, then at 0.84, as one of the lowest in the nation. “Let’s keep it up!” the governor wrote in a post on social media.

The governor had not yet addressed the state’s latest R-naught number as of Friday morning.

“The time to act is now,” Romero wrote on Twitter.

— Lorraine Longhi

Thursday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m.

Only 10% of Arizona’s ICU Beds Are Available As Some Hospitals Reach Capacity

Arizona hospitals are filling up quickly as the state reported 4,928 new cases of COVID-19 and 73 more deaths on Thursday.

Only 10% of the state’s ICU beds remain available as of Thursday, with 46% of beds in use by COVID-19 patients, according to the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

Pima County sent out a health advisory to residents Wednesday warning that transmission in the community was high and that hospitals that were at capacity. According to the county, the surge of cases in the last month had been “highly impactful” on the availability of hospital beds.

“That impact is expected to surpass critical levels should the high rate of community-wide spread occurring in Pima County not be addressed,” the advisory said.

KJZZ reported that the leaders of Arizona’s major health systems sent a letter to the Department of Health Services earlier this month, warning that the state was approaching a life-threatening COVID-19 surge and that hospitals in certain parts of the state were already at capacity.

The letter asked the Gov. Doug Ducey’s office to implement several measures to curb the spread of the virus, including stopping indoor dining, limiting gatherings to 25 people or less, stopping group athletic activities and club sports and implementing a curfew of 10 p.m.

“We want to prevent Arizona hospitals from reaching crisis levels of care, avoid preventable deaths from COVID and keep children in school,” the letter read.

— Lorraine Longhi

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m.

Maricopa County Reports Record 12,314 Cases of COVID-19

Arizona reported a record 12,314 known COVID-19 cases, 23 more deaths, and increased hospitalizations Tuesday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge around the state.

In total, there’s been 378,157 known cases of COVID-19 and 6,973 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Maricopa County accounted for 80% — or 9,824 — of the reported cases Tuesday. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health said Tuesday morning that the large case count encompassed the past 72 hours, including cases reported over the weekend that were not previously included in daily totals.

Only 10% of the state’s ICU beds remain available as of Tuesday, with 43% of beds in use by COVID-19 patients.

The record number of cases comes a week-and-a-half after Thanksgiving, which saw the biggest crowds of travelers since the start of the pandemic, despite recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that individuals forego travel plans this year and stay home.

— Lorraine Longhi

Monday, Dec. 7, 9 a.m.

First COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccinations Expected in Arizona by Dec. 15

Arizona health officials said they expect to get the first of more than 380,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 15 and will begin vaccinating health care workers and first responders shortly thereafter.

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ made that announcement Friday, as the state submitted its plans for vaccine distribution to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for approval.

Under that plan, hundreds of approved providers could begin vaccinating Arizonans, with health care workers and long-term care residents first. Christ said priority groups should be vaccinated by the end of February, and that anyone in the state who wants the two-dose vaccination should have received it by late summer or early fall.

Christ called the vaccine a “light at the end of the tunnel” during a dark time for the state: Confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths are surging in Arizona, with the health department reporting more than 11,000 new cases in the last two days alone. Overall cases in the state stood at 365,843 Monday with 6,950 COVID-19 related deaths.

It’s part of a national surge that has brought confirmed cases to just over 14 million, with 280,135 deaths as of Monday, according to the CDC.

Once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the drugs will go to the CDC, which will allocate it to the states for distribution every week. Under the complex distribution plan outlined Friday by Christ, the doses will go directly to the health providers who will deliver the vaccine, bypassing state and local health departments.

Arizona will be told each week how many doses to expect, and it will allot those by county, based on the percentage of county residents in a priority group. The counties will then tell the state how many doses to send, and where, and the state will relay that information to the CDC distributor.

“The CDC distributor will ship the vaccine directly to the providers that are approved to receive an allocation,” Christ said. “So, the state and local health departments will not receive that vaccine or serve as a middle man in the distribution chain.”

The CDC early on said first responders and health care workers should get priority for vaccination, followed by at-risk groups such as the elderly. Arizona’s plan mirrors those guidelines, with the first phase targeting three groups ahead of the general population.

Phase 1A includes health care personnel, frontline workers and long-term care residents and staff. Phase 1B covers essential workers such as teachers, police and emergency response staff, as well as utility, food, and public transport workers, and state and local government employees.

Phase 1C is defined as people at high risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19, including those 65 and older and adults in congregate settings, such as prisons. The general population is Phase 2.

There are currently 359 approved providers to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in Arizona, Christ said, with applications pending from more than 1,000.

As more vaccine providers are approved in the state, they will be listed on the CDC’s Vaccine Finder once doses are available, according to an AZDHS spokesperson.

Christ said she expects “hundreds of millions of doses” to be available for the general public in March or April, with vaccinations complete several months thereafter.

Gov. Doug Ducey this week signed an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover the entire cost of COVID-19 vaccinations for all Arizonans.

Christ referenced that order Friday when she said the COVID-19 vaccine will be considered “in network” for all state-regulated insurance companies.

“Everyone who wants to get one, will get one,” she said.

—Joycelyn Cabrera, Cronkite News

Thursday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m.

Arizona Reports Highest New COVID Cases Since August

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

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 4 p.m.

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

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.

— Bree Burkitt

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 9 a.m.

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

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.

— Bree Burkitt and Jessica Swarner

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.

— Associated Press

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.

— Associated Press

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.

— Bree Burkitt

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. 

— Bree Burkitt

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.

— Associated Press

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.

— Bree Burkitt

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.

— Associated Press

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.

— Bree Burkitt

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.

— Bree Burkitt