Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona reached 453,597 on Sunday, Dec. 20, an increase of 5,366 from the previous day, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. There have already been 121,668 new COVID-19 cases in Arizona in December, which means 27 percent of the state’s total number of cases since the start of the pandemic have come in the last 20 days.
The state had been somewhat effective over the last four months in combating the virus, but showed major signs of regression. While July saw an average increase of 3,075 new cases a day, Arizona averaged 877 new cases a day in August, averaged 552 new cases a day in September, but the number crept back up to an average of 903 new cases a day in October, and Arizona averaged 2,600 new cases a day in November. So far in December, the state is averaging 6,083 new cases per day.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 cases in Arizona stands at 7,971 in Arizona after 34 new reported deaths since yesterday.
“The numbers are still trending in a concerning direction,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, “especially considering that the number of holiday parties and gatherings are expected to increase over the next few weeks.”
This surge is the second in Arizona, which was a national hotspot for the disease this summer when surging cases were blamed on the fact that health protocols were abruptly lifted before Memorial Day weekend, when people congregated for parties and get-togethers.
Health experts fear the trend could repeat itself now as people travel and get together for the winter holidays, a threat that could be made worse by the regular flu season.
Dr. Daniel Derksen, an associate vice president at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, said the holiday trips that many people took this weekend put the state in a dire circumstance in regard to the number of hospital beds.
“The cascade effect of what’s happening right now affects not only the people who have these severe consequences of COVID-19 infection,” he said, “but really limits the ability of the health system to manage all of the other health problems that continue to occur, along with entering the influenza season.”
Derksen said the “real scary time” for public health experts will be the next two to six weeks when holiday travel will ramp up again. But the results could be worse, and they won’t be felt just in Arizona.
“It’s not just Arizona hospitals that are reaching their saturation,” he said. “It’s the whole region.”
Holly Ward, spokesperson for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said it’s not unusual to see an increase in hospitalizations in the state during the winter, but COVID-19 adds another layer to that dynamic.
“Typically, in the winter months we see an increase in hospitalizations, but now that we add COVID to this, we’re getting dangerously high in the ICU (intensive care unit)…