COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Arizona

Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - 3:05pm
Updated: Friday, May 20, 2022 - 10:24am
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COVID-19 case counts in Arizona tripled over the past month. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 7,204 new cases in its weekly update Wednesday — the third week in a row the state reported an increase in cases.

Test positivity rates in Arizona are also steadily climbing, according to the state. The health department reports about 11% of recent tests have turned up positive. In March and April, the rate had been about 3%. 

Hospitalizations in Arizona remain relatively low compared with the winter peak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports hospital admissions in Maricopa County are rising, but COVID-19 patients occupy less than 2% of the county's inpatient beds. 

But Arizona-based epidemiologist Dr. Saskia Popescu said surges across the country suggest our state’s outbreak will get worse in coming weeks.

"We're only going to see cases further increase, which will likely also lead to further hospitalizations and deaths," Popescu told KJZZ News. “What we’ve seen with Arizona in terms of following a trend, is we tend to see cases on the East Coast increase first and then almost a rolling wave we see the West Coast follow."

Hear Saskia Popescu discuss the rise in cases with host Mark Brodie on The Show

Popescu said the newest wave of cases comes at difficult time, since vaccine- or infection-acquired immunity may be waning for many people and public interest in COVID-19 has decreased.   

“A lot of people are done with it, they want to move away from it. But that doesn’t mean COVID is done with us," Popescu said.

Popescu said now is an important time for Arizonans to start wearing masks again in public and to get up-to-date on vaccines and boosters. 

"Do we have to live in this state of fear all the time? No. But it’s about being cognizant of those activities or environments that are higher risk,” Popescu said. 

Popescu said she expects vaccines will help keep hospitalizations lower in this wave than in previous waves. But she noted vaccination rates in Arizona are lower than the national average. According to the CDC, 62% percent of Arizonans are fully vaccinated, and among those who are fully vaccinated, just 42% have had a booster dose. 

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