Arizona sees 566 new virus cases, very low hospital counts

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, listens as University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins speaks during a press conference regarding innovative COVID-19 solutions on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in Phoenix. (Sean Logan/The Arizona Republic via AP)

TUCSON (AP) — The University of Arizona said a two-week shelter-in-place recommendation intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 expired Tuesday.

University officials on Monday cited recent COVID-19 testing data that has shown numbers headed in the right direction.

Officials said the university’s daily positivity rate — a measure of the virus’s community spread — fell to 3.4% on Friday, below the targeted 5%. There were 261 confirmed coronavirus cases among students and employees last week, less than before the stay-at-home request when cases climbed to that number in a single day.

“This is not a time to become complacent, however,” said university President Robert Robbins. “I continue to see groups of students around the university boulevard and elsewhere without face coverings, and I beg you to please listen and follow the guidelines.”

Robbins warned students that the recommendation could be reinstated if cases start to rise again, and Pima County health officials could take more restrictive measures.

Dr. Richard Carmona, who is leading the re-entry task force, said the university would like to increase its testing but students are not getting tested because they do not want to quarantine.

“So it may be that we have to start considering mandatory testing for students who come on campus and make it a condition of being a student if this continues,” Carmona said.

The university has implemented mandatory random testing for students living on campus and is considering similar options for students living off-campus.

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.

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.

In other developments,

— Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that Arizona will soon receive more than 2 million COVID-19 rapid point-of-care tests from the federal government. The tests can produce results within 15 minutes. Shipments of the tests are expected to arrive within 10 days. Ducey said the Arizona Department of Health Services is working with county health departments to prioritize the tests for K-12 schools and congregate care facilities for vulnerable individuals.

— State health officials on Tuesday reported 675 additional COVID-19 cases and eight additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 218,184 cases and 5,632 deaths.

COVID-19-related metrics released by the Department of Health Services on numbers as of Monday of hospitalized patients, use of intensive care beds and emergency room visits remained fairly level.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths both increased in the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press.

The average of daily new cases rose from 394 on Sept. 14 to 466 on Monday while the average of daily deaths rose from 15 to 20.

— Arizona’s top education official said local school officials should prioritize “consistent and transparent communication” about positive COVID-19 cases in schools to help maintain trust with educators, students and families.

“I have heard from many individuals that they are alarmed to hear about positive cases in their schools through the grapevine,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

Providing information will help ensure that communities “feel confident in our ability to be focused on transparency and safety,” Hoffman said in a statement.

— Mesa, one of Arizona’s most populous cities and Phoenix’s largest suburb, is helping restaurants and bars to temporarily provide open-air patio dining.

A city program offers reimbursement of up to $1,000 to offset patio expansion costs such as tables, chairs, umbrellas, lighting and temporary fencing, the city said in a statement.

“We’re continually looking for ways to help restaurants and small businesses navigate the ongoing pandemic,” Mayor John Giles said. ”

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