As 500,000 Americans have died, Arizona COVID cases decline




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Flags across the country are at a half-staff in honor of the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus, while cases in Arizona are continuing their downward trend after a major spike in cases during the winter that plunged the state into the worst of the pandemic. 

As of Feb. 23, more than 15,600 Arizonans have died from COVID-19, and more than 810,000 cases have been confirmed since the state first started seeing cases nearly a year ago. 

President Joe Biden has ordered flags across the country to be flown at half-staff on federal property for the next five days to honor the lives of those lost to COVID. Gov. Doug Ducey issued a similar order Tuesday. 

“As we pull together and continue to work to save lives and fight #COVID19, we also grieve and pray for all the lives we’ve lost in Arizona and across the nation to this disease,” Ducey said on Twitter. “We mourn each and every life lost — loved ones, family, friends, neighbors.”

Arizona has had one of the higher cases per 100,000 people in the country, with 213 cases per 100,000 people in the state, according to data compiled by The New York Times. That puts Arizona in the top ten of states with the highest percentage in the country, though cases have been on a consistent downward trend, with hospitalizations down from their January peak by 62%. 

At the start of the year, cases had been surging, with COVID cases reaching record highs and hospitals reaching capacity. The start of the year saw 238,197 cases and 4,257 deaths, both records, according to data by the John Hopkins University of Medicine

From Nov. 20, 2020, to Feb. 2, 2021, the state’s capacity of intensive care unit beds was never more than 11% available, dipping at times to as low as 7%, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services

ICU capacity is currently at 16%, roughly half of the capacity the state had prior to the pandemic’s arrival in Arizona. 

The number of inpatient beds used by COVID patients has also seen a sharp decrease, with the number of patients staying in the hospital seeing a 70% decrease since the highest peak last month, when more than 5,000 people were hospitalized for the virus. 

Despite the changing numbers, one constant has still remained: Nearly half of Arizona’s emergency room beds are used by COVID patients. 

More than a quarter of those living in COVID hot zones live in poverty, and a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that many low-income individuals found that ERs provided better service than a primary care physician. Another study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that nearly half of all medical care comes from ERs and that number is higher for minorities and women. 

Those who have been taken by COVID in Arizona have been mostly the elderly, with those over the age of 65 accounting for nearly three quarters of all deaths. COVID has become the leading cause of death among Arizonans for 2020, outpacing cancer and heart disease as the lead killer of Arizonans.

Currently, Arizona is averaging approximately 1,579 new cases a day, compared to nearly 3,000 cases a day two weeks ago and over 6,000 cases two weeks before that.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci on “Meet the Press” cautioned against getting too comfortable with the downward trends being seen with COVID. 

“It’s not the 300,000 to 400,000 that we had some time ago, but we want to get that baseline really, really, really low before we start thinking that we are out of the woods,” Fauci said on the show. 

Arizona reported 1,184 new cases of COVID and 148 deaths on Tuesday. 

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.