Chance of COVID-19 triage care looms over Arizona hospitals

Vehicles line up so people can get their COVID-19 vaccination cards after being vaccinated in a pre-registered drive-thru in the parking lot of the State Farm Stadium, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Arizona Cardinals' stadium opened as a vaccination site Monday that will be a 24-7 operation. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination program with plans that include opening another state-run site in metro Phoenix and new vaccine eligibility for additional older Arizona residents, officials said Thursday.

The next vaccination site will open with daytime hours Feb. 1 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium near the Phoenix-Tempe line, with registration beginning on Tuesday, the state Department of Health Services announced.

Arizona had the worst state COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, with 1 of every 107 people diagnosed with COVID-19 from Jan. 6 to Wednesday. The rate is calculated by dividing a state’s population by the number of new cases over the past week.

Arizona on Thursday reported 7,311 additional known COVID-19 cases and 182 additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 649,040 cases and 10,855 deaths.

Pinal County reported 509 new cases and 15 additional deaths. That brings the county totals to 35,550 positive cases and 476 deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Arizona's vaccination program was slow to get off the ground, but officials said the first state-run large site, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, has proved to be success — administering thousands of doses daily, officials said.

The vaccination site at State Farm Stadium “has been a game changer,” Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said in a statement.

Ducey's administration on Wednesday announced that people age 65 and older starting next week can sign up to get vaccinated, mirroring updated recommendations from federal health officials.

The Department of Health Services had previously allowed vaccines for those age 75 and older, with the younger groups to follow in later phases. Health officials said the latest change adds about 750,000 people to the priority vaccination list.

The state is allowing signups for the 65-and-older group beginning Tuesday, though counties can set their own prioritization rules based on how many doses they have available, officials said.

In other developments, the Department of Health Services said the state has activated a federal program to have 100 pharmacies provide vaccines over the next few weeks and eventually boost the number to more than 800 outlets.

“As the federal government ships more vaccine doses to Arizona, we will have more vaccine sites and appointments available soon,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the department’s director.

Arizona began its vaccination program with eligibility for front-line health care workers, emergency personnel and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

Eligibility then was expanded to include law enforcement personnel, educators, child care workers and people age 75 and older.

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Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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