By Aisha Sander
July 1, 2020

As of July 1st, Santa Cruz County has climbed to the highest in Arizona for rate of infection per capita (3389.7 per 100,000 population) and the highest test positivity rate of PCR Swab tests (28.3%).

On June 2 the county reported 365 cases, seven hospitalizations and one death. As of July 1st there are 1823 confirmed cases, 95 hospitalizations and 23 deaths. The zip code map shows that the outbreak is largely in Nogales and Rio Rico zip code but as of July 1 Sonoita has moved up to 6-10 cases while Patagonia and Elgin remain at 1-5 cases. 

Arizona is also experiencing a significant spike of cases averaging over 3000 new cases a day and stretching hospital capacity leading Gov. Ducey to institute a new Executive Order on June 29 to scale back reopening for bars, gyms and other activities.  

Daily updated graphs on COVID-19 Cases in Arizona

At a press conference on June 29 Governor Ducey and the AZ Dept. of Health Services (AZDHS) displayed worsening trends in every metric that was used to reopen the state in mid-May, including hospital capacity and percentage of positive tests.

One of the most important reasons for the stay at home orders around the country and in Arizona was to avoid overwhelming hospital capacity for the sickest patients from COVID-19 who require intensive care. 

However, the ICU and inpatient beds have been filled at a record 85 % or above for the last two weeks and surge capacity for many hospitals is likely to be initiated soon. Nogales International reported on June 29 that patients from Holy Cross Hospital who are transferred to hospitals in Tucson have also had to go to Phoenix and Sierra Vista because of stretched hospital capacity

This week AZDHS authorized the use of a Crisis Standard of Care Plan in a document titled “COVID-19 Addendum: Allocation of Scarce Resources in Acute Care Facilities.” This set of rules will guide hospitals to assess patients on a points based system based on a person’s health condition, age and survival chances. 

The other metric the World Health Organization (WHO) has asked countries to monitor is the rate of positivity in tests, which calculates of the total tests administered how many come back positive for COVID-19. This is an important indicator because a low rate of positivity can mean that a community has “sufficient testing capacity for the size of their outbreak and is testing enough of its population to make informed decisions about reopening.”

If the positivity rate is high it indicates that a community may largely be “testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases…The WHO has said that in countries that have conducted extensive testing for COVID-19, [positivity rates] should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.” (John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, 2020)

Screenshot of John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center Graph on Positivity rate of Testing in Arizona. July 1, 2020.

Arizona has an upward climbing positivity rate, reaching 22.9% on July 1 and also has the highest positivity rate amongst the 50 states as of July 1, 2020. 

The pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of millions of people around the world, crossing 10 million infections and over 500,000 deaths as of July 1. The United States at 2.65 million cases and 127,400 deaths has a quarter of both the world’s confirmed cases and deaths while it makes up about 5% of the world’s population. 

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