- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona’s first doses of coronavirus vaccine will go to the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas before smaller counties and tribes begin receiving shipments in the second week, the state’s health director said Friday.

The first doses will likely be administered by the middle to end of next week, assuming the Food and Drug Administration approves the first vaccine for emergency use, Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told reporters.

In the first week, Maricopa County will get 47,000 doses and Pima County will get 11,000, according to the state’s latest distribution plans. Christ expects Arizona will receive its largest vaccine shipment of the year, 189,000 doses, the following week and will spread them across the state. That assumes the FDA approves the emergency use of both pending vaccines, one created by Pfizer and BioNTech and the other by Moderna.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be frozen at much colder temperatures than Moderna’s, complicating the distribution. Christ has said many rural areas will get the Moderna vaccine to ease the shipping, but that vaccine is about a week behind the other one in the regulatory approval process.

Arizona is expected to get 384,000 doses by the end of December to begin inoculating health care workers and people in long-term care facilities against the coronavirus.



The state is recruiting doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and pharmacists to help vaccinate people. In the early stages, five mass vaccination clinics are planned for health care workers in Maricopa County and two in Pima County, Christ said. Eventually, as production ramps up and more doses arrive in 2021, health care providers will be able to order their own.

The state is nearing the end of work on a data system to keep track of who’s been vaccinated, where, when and with which vaccine so that people can be reminded to take a second dose, which is required to achieve the highest levels of immunity, Christ said.

Christ said much of the new infections are coming from small at-home gatherings of people who know each other. It’s not enough to wear a mask only when leaving the house, she said; faces should be covered whenever people are around others they don’t live with.

“I think what’s happening is people are letting their guards down in what they consider familiar and trusted places,” Christ said.

Arizona on Friday reported nearly 7,000 additional known COVID-19 cases, the third highest number in one day since the pandemic began. The state’s virus-related hospitalizations neared a peak last seen during the state’s surge last summer.

The state reported 6,983 additional known cases and 91 known deaths, boosting the state’s totals to 394,512 cases and 7,245 deaths.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations as of Thursday reached 3,492, just short of the peak during last summer’s surge of 3,517 on July 13, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

The latest hospitalization figure was up from 3,408 on Wednesday and included 809 patients undergoing treatment in intensive care unit beds, according to the dashboard.

Available hospital beds statewide dropped to 9% on Thursday, down from 10% on Wednesday, according to the dashboard. Health officials in some parts of the state have said hospitals were full or nearly so.

Hospital officials and public health experts have warned that the continuing surge of COVID-19 cases will exceed the state’s health system’s capacity this month.

In an effort to halt the spread of the virus, the state has imposed various restrictions in effect that have closed and limited operations in some establishments, but Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has declined to order a statewide mask requirement or to impose new lockdowns as urged by public health advocates and others. Many local governments have imposed mask mandates and a few have set curfews.

The state’s top public health official, Dr. Cara Christ, continued to urge Arizona residents to wear masks, distance, wash their hands, avoid large gatherings and stay home when sick.

“With reliable vaccines on the horizon, there is hope. But for now we must continue to do all that we can to mitigate the spread of covid-19,” Christ, the state director of health services, said in a video message Thursday. “With more holidays coming, it’s a reason for all of us to be vigilant.”

The 6,983 additional cases reported Friday were below the record 12,314 reported Tuesday and the Dec. 2 report of 10,322 a figure that included data delayed by the Thanksgiving weekend.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project, seven-day rolling averages for new Arizona daily cases, daily deaths and daily averages of COVID-19 testing positivity all increased in the past two weeks.

The rolling average of daily new cases rose from 3,871.6 on Nov. 26 to 5,872.6 on Thursday while the average of new deaths rose from 26.3 to 47.6 and the testing positivity average rose from 8.9% to 24.1%.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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