Maricopa testing blitz

Nurses process drivers for free COVID-19 tests during a blitz July 18 at Copper Sky Regional Park in Maricopa.

CASA GRANDE — The number of positive coronavirus cases in Casa Grande and Eloy took a dramatic jump Friday after health labs began to process a backlog of cases.

In Casa Grande’s three ZIP codes, 54 new cases were reported Friday morning, bringing the total to 1,482. In neighboring Eloy, 59 new cases were reported, bringing the community total to 941.

Other areas of Pinal County seeing big jumps were Maricopa with 52 new cases for a total of 941 and San Tan Valley/Queen Creek with 54 new cases for the top county total of 1,978.

The numbers could reflect the fact that labs are catching up on processing test results. State health officials reported Thursday there was a backlog of more than 60,000 tests to be processed. Also the results from recent testing blitzes in Maricopa and Casa Grande could also be coming in. Pinal County now has over 7,000 positive cases recorded.

No new deaths were reported in the county Friday, but 79 were reported in the state, bringing the Arizona total to 3,142.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 3,349 new cases were reported Friday, bringing the state total to 156,301.

Hospitalizations for the virus have dropped significantly in the past two weeks, with 2,844 people being treated as of Thursday. That’s down from the July 13 peak of 3,517 people. The number of people being cared for in intensive care units has also fallen significantly.

The decline was the first sustained drop in new cases since Gov. Doug Ducey imposed orders a month ago closing gyms, nightclubs and bars and face-mask orders issued by local governments started to appear. The Republican said Thursday he would extend those closure orders indefinitely.

“There’s no victory lap today. There’s no celebration,” Ducey said at his weekly virus briefing. “We cannot let up –- we need to be vigilant every day in the state of Arizona.”

Ducey allowed local governments in June to impose requirements for face masks in public spaces, and 90% of the state’s population is now covered by those orders. Ducey pointed to the closure and mask orders as leading to a drop in new cases in the past two weeks for the first time in months.