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Arizona becomes US hot spot for COVID-19

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | | Updated: 2021-01-13 11:57
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Arizona has become America's newest hot spot for weekly coronavirus cases with nearly 335 deaths and 9,000 new infections on Tuesday alone.

The state's seven-day average for cases was the highest in the nation Sunday, according to data from the COVID-19 tracker at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Over the past seven days, the rate of new positive coronavirus cases was 133.8 cases per 100,000 people, figures from the CDC showed. In comparison, the US average for new cases was 73.8 per 100,000.  

Dr Joe Gerald, a researcher at the University of Arizona, warned in a modeling report released on Jan 8 that things could soon get worst.

"The virus is mowing through Arizona like a sharpened scythe. ... Barring intervention, daily cases and fatalities will double or perhaps quadruple before the outbreak collapses under the weight of natural, not vaccine-induced immunity later this spring."

Since the pandemic began last year, Arizona has had 636,100 coronavirus cases and 10,482 deaths, according to the state's health department.

In his 2021 State of the State (SOTS) address Monday, Governor Doug Ducey ruled out introducing further measures to reduce the virus' spread.

"In many ways, an extremely tough year brought out the best in us," but often "our best wasn't enough", he said in a virtual speech from his office.

After acknowledging the 10,000 lives lost to the pandemic in his state, he defended his "measured, steady and responsible" approach to tackling COVID-19, adding, "The critics can say what they want, but the path I've outlined is the right path for Arizona."

Ducey then urged schools to get back to in-person learning as soon as possible. "We will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure; children still need to learn even in a pandemic," he said.

Kathy Hoffman, state superintendent of public instruction for Arizona's education department, criticized Ducey.

She said his speech "ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its severe impact on our schools, students and teachers. The harsh reality is that students and teachers cannot safely return to in-person learning while Arizona sits as one of the worst COVID-19 hot spots in the world."

Phoenix's Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego has repeatedly said Ducey's handling of the pandemic hasn't worked. She also criticized his unwillingness to work with city leaders.

"Disappointing to hear no new COVID-19 mitigation policies during the governor's SOTS," she said on Twitter. "The numbers in Arizona speak for themselves. Our current actions are not working, and we are losing too many lives. We need state leadership now."

The deluge of coronavirus cases in Arizona has placed a huge strain on hospitals. There were at least 5,082 inpatients with COVID-19 in hospitals on Monday. The number of COVID-19 patients in state intensive care unit (ICU) beds was 1,183.

More than 92 percent of Arizona's ICU beds and inpatient beds are currently occupied. And at least 65 percent of all ICU beds are being used for coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, 58 percent of non-ICU beds are being used for coronavirus patients, reported.

Arizona began to roll out its vaccination program on Dec 14. Those in Phase 1a, first in line to get vaccinated, include residents of long-term care homes; first responders and healthcare workers.

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