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With 484 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 836,000 as of Monday, March 22, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 87 new cases today, has seen 111,912 of the state’s 836,737 confirmed cases.

With no new deaths reported this morning, a total of 16,745 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,326 deaths in Pima County, according to the March 22 report.

A total of 647 coronavirus patients were in the hospital as of March 21. That’s roughly 13% 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 940 people visited emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on March 21. That number represents 40% 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 180 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on March 21, which roughly 15% 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.

Conditions continue to improve in Arizona

As case counts fell for a ninth straight week, Arizona is moving from a period of substantial risk to moderate risk, according to Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist and professor in the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health.

While health officials continue to urge people to wear masks, physically distance from people outside their household and avoid public indoor spaces for longer than 15 minutes, the state now has one of the lowest transmission rates in the United States, according to the CDC.

A total of 4,445 COVID cases were reported in the week ending March 14, representing a 22% decrease from the previous week, Gerald said in his weekly report tracking COVID trends.

“While residents and businesses should continue to follow public health mitigation recommendations, normalization of low-risk activities is reasonable as case rates have fallen below 100 new diagnoses per 100,000 residents,” Gerald wrote.

He noted that new cases were diagnosed at 61 per 100,000 residents, compared to 38 per 100,000 residents in the week ending Sept. 8, which was the lowest point of COVID diagnosis between the summer and winter waves on the virus in Arizona.

Gerald said that hospital occupancy had fallen 86% from the Jan. 11 peak but noted that “hospitals remain above seasonal occupancy.”

In Pima County, a total of 548 residents tested positive for COVID in the week ending March 14, which represented a 20% decreased from the previous week.

Using an interactive tool designed by McKinsey & Company that projects herd immunity based on estimating how many people have been infected with COVID and how many people have been vaccinated, Gerald estimated that Arizona might reach herd immunity by late April or early May. But he warned that variant strains now appearing in Arizona could reduce the efficacy of vaccines and more easily infect children, meaning it could take longer.

Schools reopen for in-person instruction 

Following Gov. Doug Ducey’s order that schools resume in-person classes for any families who want it, area school districts are welcoming more students back.

Many districts are also continuing to offer virtual learning for families who are reluctant to send their kids back to school.

The Tucson Unified School District reopened campuses for the first time in a year today. Marana, which had been offering hybrid learning, will have students in classes Monday through Thursday, with Friday reserved for online learning.

The Amphi School District is doing virtual learning for all students today and tomorrow, with students returning on Wednesday.

How to get a vaccine

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

To find out if you are eligible for a vaccine, visit the Arizona Department of Health website.

Pima County and the state of Arizona are providing vaccination appointments to people 55 and older as well as frontline workers, educators, first responders and healthcare workers. 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.

More than 1.1 million Arizonans are now fully vaccinated against COVID as of today, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. More than 1.8 million Arizonans have at least one shot of the vaccine.

A total of 257,181 Pima County residents have received at least one vaccine shot and 168,387 residents are fully vaccinated as of today, according to ADHS.

Between the state POD, the county PODs and private pharmacies, the county is now receiving between 40,000 and 50,000 doses a week, according to Pima County spokesman Mark Evans.

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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