Vaccinations Ramp Up Around State While Testing Drops, ICUs Near Capacity
As Maricopa County and others move into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution here, more Arizonans are able to schedule COVID-19 appointments to get their shots.
In the Valley, the state Department of Health Services has vaccinated more than 12,500 people at its first mass vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Health department director Dr. Cara Christ says the site should be able to give about 6,000 shots per day.
“As we get more of a supply of vaccine and we can ensure that we would be able to provide it here at State Farm, we actually have the capacity — as we go — to potentially ramp up to 12,000 people a day," Christ said.
Right now, teachers, child care providers and law enforcement personnel can schedule appointments through the DHS website. So far, more than 87,000 appointments have been scheduled at the stadium.
On Jan. 14, the governor and state health officials announced that another mass vaccination site will open soon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium near Papago Park. Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that the new site will dramatically boost the number of Arizonans who can get the vaccine.
There are five other vaccine distribution sites in Maricopa County and two sites in Pima County. In the next few weeks, up to 100 pharmacies will also be able to provide the vaccines.
Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security is one of the authors of a recent study looking at how prepared local public health departments are for mass vaccinations.
“We have never attempted to vaccinate the U.S. at the scale that we are now asking states to do. Thinking about doing this is extraordinary,” Nuzzo said.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is, for now, eclipsed by the still skyrocketing numbers of new infections in our state.
As of Jan. 14, there are 7,311 new infections reported, and the total death toll in the state is racing toward 11,000.
On Jan. 12, Arizona hit a record of COVID-19 deaths. A seven-day average shows the state’s test positivity rate has passed a record 40%.
Joshua LaBaer of ASU’s Biodesign Institute says that means two things.
“One is, it means that there's just a lot of people in our state that are walking around with COVID-19. Also, the number of tests that we're doing on average per day is too low," LaBaer said.
LaBaer worries that with the arrival of the vaccines, people are getting complacent with testing. And this, he believes, is why we’re seeing a downward trend in testing.
“We’re seeing days of 15,000 tests a day or even 10,000 tests a day, and that's nowhere near the amount of tests that we should be doing right now," LaBaer said.
Vaccines will likely take months to significantly reduce community spread. Experts estimate one in 10 Arizonans have COVID-19 right now.
Meanwhile, hospitals are continuing to struggle with the number of patients. Ninety-three percent of ICU beds are filled, the majority of those with COVID-19 patients.
In Pima County, the coroner's office has reached capacity.
As of Jan. 13, Medical Examiner Gregory Hess says they are storing around 350 bodies at the Pima County Coroner's Office.
He says they’ve seen a steady increase since Christmas. Refrigerated semi-trucks were called in to help handle the number of dead.