Banner Health hospitals, ICUs are filling up in Phoenix area

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2020, file photo, vehicles line up at patrons wait for COVID-19 tests at a drive-thru testing center in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — All Arizona counties are showing substantial spread of the coronavirus, according to an update posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Eight of the 15 counties were classified last week as substantial, indicating the most severe risk for contracting the disease.

The metrics were created to guide decisions about whether it's safe to open schools and businesses, but Gov. Doug Ducey's administration has declined to require that they be followed. The metrics are a lagging indicator of true spread of the virus because they’re tied to data collected over several weeks.

Department officials urged caution during the holidays. “If you gather with people from outside your household, take the same precautions you’d follow in public: #MaskUpAZ, distance, wash/sanitize hands,” the department said on Twitter.

The state on Thursday reported 115 additional deaths attributed to COVID-19, the sixth time in nine days the figure has been in the triple digits.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 7,046 additional known COVID-19 cases, increasing its totals to 480,319 cases and 8,294 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Pinal County reported 528 additional cases and seven deaths. That brings the county total to 25,317 cases and 345 deaths

Arizona had the third-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate among U.S. states over the past week, behind Tennessee and California. The diagnosis rate is calculated by dividing the total state population by the number of new cases.

The state had a record 4,221 people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the coronavirus dashboard — the latest in a series of pandemic highs set this month.

Coronavirus patients on Wednesday were using a record 50% of all hospital beds, while the 965 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds were below the state’s record of 972 set Tuesday.

Only 8% of all hospital inpatient beds were available and not in use, including 7% of ICU beds, according to the dashboard.

People attending religious services should wear masks and distance, particularly if there’s singing, and avoid hugging, shaking hands or drinking from communal cups, said Dr. Cara Christ, the department’s director.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose from 49.9 deaths on Dec. 9 to 92.7 on Wednesday as the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose from 5,946 to 9,293.4, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID-Tracking Project.

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.

In another development, Prescott announced Wednesday it would deny permission for public events on city property effective immediately for 90 days because of the current virus surge and the crowding of area hospitals, The Daily Courier reported.

“This is the right decision at this time,” Mayor Gregg Mengarelli said. “Large public events and gatherings require additional police and fire protection. We do not believe this is the best allocation of these resources during this pandemic.”

Organizers of the annual New Year’s Eve Whiskey Row Boot Drop held in downtown Prescott announced the cancelation of the Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 event.


Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed.

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