- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona health officials’ public messaging took on a blunt tone Saturday as the state reported the second-highest daily increase since the pandemic’s start and the outbreak’s fall surge continued to elevate occupancy rates of increasingly stressed hospitals closer to capacity.

The Department of Health Services said on Twitter that people should wear masks “around anyone who isn’t a member of your household, even those you know and trust.”

Similarly, the department’s director, Dr. Cara Christ, said on Twitter that individuals “must take precautions as if we may be infected. And we must act as though anyone we are around may be infected.”

The additional 6,799 known COVID-19 cases reported Saturday trailed only the 10,322 known cases reported Tuesday. Officials have said that record high that officials included data delayed by the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The week saw a total of four daily reports of over 5,000 additional cases.

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

Gov. Doug Ducey has imposed restrictions that closed some establishments and requiring distancing and other precautions in others to stop spread of the coronavirus, but he has eschewed ordering a statewide mask mandate, a new stay-home requirement or curfews. Many local governments have imposing masking requirements.

The state on Saturday also reported 40 additional deaths as the statewide totals increased to 358,900 cases and 6,935 deaths.

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 2,931 on Friday, five times as many as in early October at the beginning of the current surge.

Available intensive care unit beds on Friday dipped to 8%, down from 11% a week earlier and 21% two months ago.

Even before the spike of cases seen since Thanksgiving, hospital officials and public health experts have warned that the state’s health care system would exceed its capacity this month.

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

The average of daily new cases rose from 3,160 on Nov. 20 to 4,780 on Friday while the average of daily deaths rose from 24.3 to 42.4 and the average of testing positivity rose from 18.2% to 27.2%

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