Arizona reports record-high number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Alison Steinbach
Arizona Republic

Arizona reported a record-high 2,392 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and hospitals reported record numbers of patients as the state continues to grapple with a relentless increase in coronavirus spread.

Inpatient beds for patients with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 hit a record number Monday, with 1,506 inpatients, according to hospital data reported to the state and posted on its website Tuesday.

ICU beds in use, ventilators in use and emergency department visits for COVID-19 all reached record levels Monday as well. 

Tuesday marks the first time the state has reported more than 2,000 new cases in a single day, per state data. Previously, the record was 1,654 new cases reported on June 12. 

The state has seen more than two weeks of high numbers of reported cases, deaths and hospitalizations. More than 1,000 new cases have been reported on 11 of the past 15 days, including on the past seven days. 

Twenty-five deaths were reported Monday.

In a briefing last week, Gov. Doug Ducey focused on hospital capacity — saying that although positive COVID-19 cases have been increasing, Arizona's hospitals are prepared to handle more patients.

Ducey said concern about hospitals was "misinformation" and that Arizona hospitals are doing fine. 

Arizona's sharp uptick during the past two to three weeks, particularly the spikes in positive cases, has raised questions and alarm locally and nationally about whether the state has done enough to slow the spread and what other precautions may be necessary. 

Ducey's stay-at-home order expired just over a month ago. 

Here's what you need to know about Tuesday's new numbers.

Reported cases: 39,097 known cases

  • Cases increased by 2,392, or 6.5%, from Monday's 36,705 identified cases. 
  • 20,775 in Maricopa, 4,329 in Pima, 3,379 in Yuma, 2,749 in Navajo, 1,996 in Apache, 1,727 in Pinal, 1,393 in Coconino, 1,104 in Santa Cruz, 624 in Mohave, 384 in Yavapai, 241 in Cochise, 238 in La Paz, 91 in Gila, 55 in Graham and 12 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.
  • The Navajo Nation reported 6,625 cases and 311 confirmed deaths as of Monday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
  • The Arizona Department of Corrections said 252 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday. 2,255 inmates have been tested out of a population of 40,632.
  • While race/ethnicity is unknown for 40% of cases, 26% of cases are Hispanic or Latino, 18% of cases are white, 11% are Native American and 3% are Black.
  • Laboratories have completed 353,991 diagnostic tests for COVID-19, 8.7% of which have come back positive.

Reported deaths: 1,219 known deaths 

  • Deaths increased by 25 from Monday's 1,194 known deaths.
  • 568 in Maricopa, 226 in Pima, 88 in Coconino, 88 in Navajo, 67 in Mohave, 57 in Apache, 47 in Pinal, 44 in Yuma, 13 in Santa Cruz, seven in Yavapai, five in Cochise, three in Gila, three in La Paz and fewer than three in Graham and Greenlee.
  • People aged 65 and older made up 920 of the 1,219 deaths, or 75%. 
  • While race/ethnicity is unknown for 13% of deaths, 44% of deaths were white, 20% were Hispanic or Latino, 18% were Native American and 3% were Black.

Hospitalizations still increasing

  • Inpatients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 tallied 1,506 as of Monday, the highest number so far. This was the 15th consecutive day that hospitalizations statewide have eclipsed 1,000, the highest they’ve been since the state began reporting the data on April 8.
  • Ventilator use for suspected and confirmed positive COVID-19 patients was at its highest on Monday, with 340 patients on ventilators. This continues a trend of high ventilator numbers, which were especially high over the past week. Before Monday's 340 patients, Saturday's 317 patients on ventilators was the highest number since data on ventilator use became public on April 8.
  • ICU bed use for suspected and confirmed positive COVID-19 patients hit a record high 502 on Monday, surpassing the 464 on Sunday. Monday was the 21st consecutive day that the number has been higher than 370 and the eighth consecutive day it has passed 400.
  • Emergency department visits for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 hit its highest number so far, with 956 patients seen Monday. Numbers surpassed 800 on June 5 and have been above every day since. During April and May, emergency department daily visits for COVID-19 were typically in the 400s and 500s, rising into the 600s in the last few days of May.
  • The number of patients with suspected or confirmed positive COVID-19 discharged from hospitals has hovered between 95 and 140 individuals each day for the past two weeks. The highest day for COVID-19 patient discharge was April 17, with 242 patients discharged.

What's the conversation about these trends? 

The state isn't talking much about possible new mitigation strategies or changes. Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, have encouraged a redoubling of personal precautions such as physical distancing and mask-wearing when that's not possible. They repeatedly say Arizona has taken adequate precautions statewide and is prepared. The governor's office told The Arizona Republic Monday it plans to expand its public health information campaign, further ramp up testing, expand contact tracing and continue to watch hospital capacity.

Although there is capacity, hospital systems worry about staffing and other challenges. Hospital leaders say while there are plans in place for a surge of COVID-19 patients, that would put great pressure on staffing, test supplies and other hospital services. Hospital leaders are also concerned about potentially having to stop elective surgeries again given the negative effects on patient health.

Some counties urge more serious individual action. As situations appear to worsen, some counties have begun speaking up to urge more individual action to slow the spread. Maricopa County last week strongly recommended the use of face masks as well as measures like social distancing. Mohave County on Friday issued a strongly worded warning about an "alarming spike in cases" in the northern Arizona county and said not enough businesses and individuals are maintaining vigilance in adhering to guidelines from public health officials.  

Sticking out on the map. In some projections, Arizona is appearing among the worst places nationwide for COVID-19 spread. Youyang Gu, a data scientist behind, created a map of how cases are changing across states, taking into account both population and the rate of increase.

Arizona appears dark orange, earning the fourth-worst score among all states for COVID-19 case changes, behind Alabama, South Carolina and Florida. 

One model greatly shifted up its death estimates. model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has increased its death projections for Arizona to 7,415 deaths by Oct. 1. Last week, it projected 4,762 deaths by that date. 

Key figures to watch

The percentage of positive tests is increasing. This is the opposite direction from White House reopening criteria. The percentage of positive tests out of all tests per week increased to 14% last week, from 6% a month ago to 9% three weeks ago to 12% two weeks ago. When the state decided to reopen in mid-May, that number had been trending down, but it has been increasing ever since. 

Ducey said several times in his briefing last week that the increase in cases and percent of positive tests correlated with the increase in testing. But during the past two weeks, cases increased by 84% and tests increased by just 49%. 

There is still some hospital capacity. Ducey has emphasized the state has enough hospital capacity, pointing to current available space in hospitals as well as additional surge methods and more beds that can be brought online if necessary. As of Monday, 81% of current inpatient beds and 80% of ICU beds were in use for COVID-19 and other patients.

The governor anticipated increased COVID-19 cases in June based on various modeling, including projections in a FEMA model, and as a result state officials have been spending the past few months working to ensure every Arizonan has access to care, Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak wrote in an email Monday.

If Arizona needs it, the former St. Luke's Medical Center in Phoenix is "ready for activation if and when we need additional capacity, something that is not necessary at this time," Ptak wrote.

Republic reporter Stephanie Innes contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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