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Arizona reports 7,720 more COVID cases, most in a year

December 31, 2021 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona on Friday reported over 7,700 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, the most reported on a single day since last January.

The 7,720 additional cases and 17 deaths reported by the state Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard increased Arizona’s pandemic totals to 1,381,488 cases and 24,229 deaths.

The department said earlier in the week that some daily reports of additional cases would be larger than normal because of reporting delays over the Christmas holiday weekend.

The 7,720 cases reported Friday are more than two times the state’s latest seven-day rolling average of daily new cases derived from Johns Hopkins University data. That rolling average of 2,953.6 cases ran through Wednesday and didn’t include the 7,720 cases reported Friday or the 5,687 on Thursday.

Arizona reported over 8,000 additional cases on 13 days last January.

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In other developments:

— The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide dropped slightly, with 2,303 virus patients occupying inpatient beds as of Thursday, according to the Department of Health Services dashboard.

Only 108 intensive-care beds were available in hospitals statewide as of Thursday, according to the dashboard.

“It’s basically a war zone,” Dr. Arya Chowdhury, an emergency room doctor who works in several Phoenix-area hospitals, told azfamily.com. “For literally the last six months, in certain facilities, I have been seeing patients in the waiting room, and sometimes, the waiting room is so full, there’s not enough chairs for patients there, so they’re standing.”

A top official of Phoenix-based Banner Health, the state’s largest health care chain, said Tuesday that the current bulge of COVID-19 hospitalizations is not expected to peak until mid-January.

— Over 10% of Pima County employees subject to a mandatory vaccine mandate hadn’t provided proof of vaccination as of a day before Friday’s deadline and face possible termination, according to a memo sent to the Board of Supervisors.

The memo from acting County Administrator John Lesher dated Thursday said 213 employees who work with vulnerable populations could be fired. That’s out of 2,095 county workers in that classification. The county has about 3,600 workers in all.

More than half who are not vaccinated are jail corrections officers, and the rest are scattered through various departments.

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Lesher wrote that the situation remained fluid and many workers have said they would comply. He said department heads have been told to issue termination letters by Jan. 7, giving a week’s extra time for workers to get their shots.

“While unvaccinated employees working with vulnerable populations will not be permitted in the work environment, delaying the issuance of the final paperwork will ensure that each affected employee was given the full opportunity to comply with the vaccination directive,” Lesher wrote. “As such, more definitive numbers of actual terminations will be forthcoming early next week.”

The Board of Supervisors approved a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees who primarily work with vulnerable populations in October. That includes people who work in jails or nursing homes or who provide services to children or the elderly.

Because so many jail employees could be fired, that county has been working to lower the jail population. County Attorney Laura Conover also announced that as of Dec, 14 she would no longer charge people for simple drug possession, cutting populations even more.