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With 138 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases nears 838,000 as of Thursday, March 25, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 47 new cases today, has seen 112,045 of the state’s 837,987 confirmed cases.

With 32 new deaths reported this morning, a total of 16,874 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,339 deaths in Pima County, according to the March 25 report.

A total of 628 coronavirus patients were in the hospital as of March 24. That’s roughly 12% of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 973 people visited emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on March 24. That number represents 41% of the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had peaked during the summer wave at 2,008 on July 7, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.

A total of 165 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on March 24, which roughly 14% of the record 1,183 ICU patients set on Jan. 11. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22, 2020.

State continues to block effort to vaccinate 210 Pima County residents in low-income, minority neighborhoods

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution requesting Gov. Doug Ducey reconsider denying permission to set up a federal vaccination POD in Pima County.

The board also voted to seek help from the federal government if declined a second time at an emergency meeting on Wednesday.

The county would request “the Biden Administration, in keeping with their National Strategy Goals for COVID-19 vaccination, direct the Department of Homeland Security Secretary and the Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator to establish a Type 1 Federal vaccination center to provide vaccine opportunities to disadvantaged and minority communities.”

At a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gov Ducey said he would reconsider Pima County’s request to allow a federal POD vaccination site in Pima County, but only because “'Board of Supervisors feel so strongly about it, but the objective is going to remain putting shots in arms.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) first approached Pima County Health Department Director, Dr. Theresa Cullen, on the possibility of establishing a COVID-19 vaccination POD in Pima County about two weeks ago, according to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's March 24 memo.

However, the request required approval by the state and Ducey, through Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ, declined. While Ducey said he would revisit the request, the reasons given for declining remain the same.

In a letter in response to Christ, FEMA Acting Regional Administrator Tammy L. Littrell addressed each of Christ’s concerns about the federal POD taking vaccine supply, lacking state oversight and partnership, and concerns about customer experience and delays. Littrell said the vaccine supply provided to the state POD is independent of the vaccine supply that would be allocated for the federal POD. Further FEMA is seeking an “active partnership” with the state and “concerns for hours-long waits as the norm are unfounded.” More details here.

Adults older than 16 now eligible for appointments at state vaccine centers; Pima County expands eligibility to anyone with chronic medical condition

All adults older than 16 are now eligible for appointments at state vaccination PODs.

Previously, vaccines were limited to people 55 and older as well as frontline workers, educators, first responders and healthcare workers.

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said on average they have 100 to 200 unfilled appointments each day at the UA’s state POD. However, Jensen said as of Monday, March 22, only two vaccines had gone unused due to a needle drop, and if there are missed appointments, the vaccines leftover would go to volunteers at the POD.

New appointments for the UA POD will open up at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 26, said Jensen. The Arizona Department of Health Services announced last week it would begin announcing the number of appointments opening up on Fridays via a Wednesday Twitter post.

As of today, Pima County will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to anyone 55 and older and anyone older than 16 with at-risk circumstances.

Starting Thursday, March 25, anyone living with a high-risk medical condition or disability, experiencing homelessness or living in a group setting, or receiving in-home or long-term care can get the vaccine. Some of the high-risk medical conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions or compromised immunity.

Those in high-risk jobs will also be eligible.

Although the state has expanded eligibility to anyone over 16, Pima County's guidelines had to be limited, said Dr. Theresa Cullen, Health Department director.

“We realize that this is not fully aligned with what Gov. Ducey announced earlier this week; however, our decisions are based on the current vaccination rates for 55 and up (which is at 42%), as well as our commitment to ensure ongoing access to vulnerable populations,” Cullen said. “We anticipate appointments will be filled quickly and as we move these groups, we look forward to being able to align with the state's recommendations within the next six weeks.”

You can register for your vaccine appointments at a state POD by visiting pod vaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201.

Those who qualify in Pima County’s priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

Many local pharmacies are now receiving vaccine doses. To find one near you, visit the ADHS website.

ADHS will now announce on Wednesdays via Twitter, @AZDHS, and Facebook the approximate number of first-dose appointments available. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) will release those new COVID-19 vaccination appointments every Friday.

Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing

Pima County is continuing to offer a number of testing centers around town.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center (2805 E. Ajo Way) and the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road).

The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

Schedule an appointment at these or other drive-thru or pop-up sites at pima.gov/covid19testing.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing can determine if you have had COVID and now have antibodies. To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Austin Counts, Christina Duran, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen

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