Hospitalizations in Arizona for COVID-19 continued about 11 weeks of general declines as the state reported 586 new COVID-19 cases and 23 new known deaths on Tuesday.
Arizona’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 50th Monday among all states and territories, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.
The state’s seven-day death rate per 100,000 people ranked eighth in the nation as of Monday, per the CDC.
Arizona’s overall COVID-19 death and case rates since Jan. 21, 2020, remain among the worst in the country.
Follow coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic by Republic and USA TODAY Network reporters here.
Ability360 in the coming weeks will host a series of vaccination events at its campus in Phoenix geared toward people with disabilities, the nonprofit announced during an Arizona Developmental Disabilities Network meeting on Tuesday.
The nonprofit was working with the Arizona Department of Health Services and several partner organizations to host the upcoming vaccination events at its sports and fitness center at 5025 E. Washington St., according to Ability360 President and Chief Executive Officer Phil Pangrazio.
While plans were still being finalized, the nonprofit selected several dates to administer first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to people 16 or older, Pangrazio said.
The first doses will be administered between 2:30 and 9 p.m. April 10 and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 11, according to Pangrazio. The second doses will be administered between 2:30 and 9 p.m. May 1 and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. May 2nd, Pangrazio said.
Passport Health would be the medical provider onsite administering the vaccinations, Pangrazio said. It would also manage the online appointment scheduling process for the vaccination events, more details for which will be available at a later date, Pangrazio said.
Volunteers will be available onsite to help navigate people through the vaccination process, Pangrazio said.
The nonprofit also aimed to offer an option for people to request assistance with appointment scheduling or while onsite during the vaccination events, Pangrazio said.
— Chelsea Curtis
The Navajo Nation identified its first confirmed case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 on Tuesday, an individual who had been vaccinated for the disease about a month earlier.
The positive case was confirmed from a COVID-19 test sample taken in the western portion of the Navajo Nation, officials said during a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday.
“We shouldn’t panic, but we should be informed about this new development,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a press release.
“There is still much to be learned about this particular variant, but the evidence so far indicates that the UK variant is more contagious and is more severe in some cases,” Nez said. “The U.K. variant has been detected in all 50 states, and now we have a confirmed case here on the Navajo Nation.”
Officials with the Navajo Department of Health said that the individual who tested positive for the U.K. variant had received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine over a month before testing positive.
The individual was hospitalized but is now recovering at home, officials said.
“In this particular case, the severity of the infection for this individual may have been reduced by the vaccine that the person received weeks prior,” Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Jill Jim said in a news release.
“As we’ve said before, the vaccines do not guarantee that a person won’t become infected with COVID-19 and the variants, so it’s very important to continue taking all precautions even after you are fully vaccinated,” she added.
Contact tracing was conducted and no further spread was identified beyond the one individual who tested positive for the variant, according to health officials.
The Navajo Epidemiology Center is coordinating with states and other testing facilities to sequence samples for the variants.
“We don’t want to cause panic, but we want to reinforce the need to take all precautions by limiting travel, getting tested if symptoms occur, wearing one or two masks, avoiding medium to large in-person gatherings, practicing social distancing and washing your hands often,” Nez said.
Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said “personal responsibility is key to reducing the spread of the U.K. variant.”
“We know how to prevent the virus from spreading, but we all have to do our part,” he added.
— Shondiin Silversmith
More than half of the needed vaccine volunteer shifts at State Farm Stadium for overnight on Tuesday remained unfilled midday, as volunteer interest has plummeted since vaccine eligibility expanded.
Volunteers at state-run vaccination sites can get their first shot immediately after a six- or eight-hour shift, but that incentive is now less enticing since everyone 16 and older became eligible to sign up for the vaccine last week.
HandsOn Greater Phoenix, which coordinates volunteer sign ups with Arizona State University, has seen interest bottom out, in stark comparison to earlier this year when the website crashed due to a surplus of eager volunteers.
For the 1:30-10 p.m. Tuesday shift at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, 57 out of 145 volunteer slots remained unfilled as of around noon. For the overnight 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday shift, 83 out of 145 slots remained open.
Large numbers of volunteer slots are also unfilled for the rest of the week at State Farm Stadium. The shifts at State Farm are currently eight hours. The state has said it can shift to paid staff instead of volunteers if needed.
“The volunteers and the staff on the ground out there are having to double-step it and not take breaks, and they’ve risen to the occasion,” said HandsOn CEO Rhonda Oliver. “But we’d really like to have the flow of volunteers that we’ve enjoyed since the beginning of February … If we can all just pull together for a couple of more months and get this done, it would be great.”
Interested volunteers can find more information and sign up at handsonphoenix.org/vaccinatestate48.
— Alison Steinbach
More than 200 doses of Pfizer vaccine ended up in the trash on March 18, state health officials confirmed Monday.
An unusual number of no-shows and an inability to call additional patients in the middle of the night led to the 228 doses expiring, Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott wrote in an email, confirming the number first reported by the Phoenix New Times.
The COVID-19 vaccine doses were wasted between midnight and dawn on March 18 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Elliott said. It’s the highest number of vaccines that has been thrown out at any state-operated vaccine site, he said.
On March 22, four days after the doses were wasted, the state opened up vaccine eligibility to all Arizonans 16 and older. Prior to March 22, only those ages 55 and older were allowed to get vaccinated at the state-operated sites.
“Arizona’s move to open vaccination to everyone age 16 and older at state-run sites will help reduce the number of no-shows and make sure that all available appointments are taken,” Elliott wrote.
“ADHS considers it unacceptable if even one usable dose of vaccine isn’t used as intended. Staff and partners immediately used this situation as a case study to improve communication and procedures between clinical workers checking in patients and administering vaccine in the parking lot and the pharmacy staff thawing and drawing doses within the stadium.”
Going forward, communication from clinical staff to the site’s pharmacy will adjust the number of doses thawed and drawn into syringes, while clinical staff will administer extra doses to others in vehicles to eliminate the chance of waste, he wrote.
The state-run State Farm Stadium site has administered nearly 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since opening Jan. 11. State officials say the only other case involving unused vaccine occurred March 3, when the State Farm Stadium site reported 12 usable doses had expired.
“These are the only reports ADHS has received involving expired vaccine at state-run sites,” Elliott wrote.
— Stephanie Innes and Alison Steinbach
Arizonans played a key role in a promising new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in the real world, beyond the clinical trials.
The newly-released CDC report tracked vaccine effectiveness in nearly 4,000 health care workers, first responders and other essential workers for 13 weeks from December to March.
About half of those individuals were in Arizona — 1,199 people in Tucson, 555 in Phoenix and 320 elsewhere in the state. The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is credited for the Arizona effort.
The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) were found to be 90% effective against COVID-19 infections starting two weeks after the second dose, and 80% effective with partial immunization of two weeks after the first dose but prior to the second dose. The findings were similar to those of clinical trials.
“Current vaccination efforts are resulting in substantial preventive benefits among working-age adults,” the report reads.
The study’s conclusion was that the approved vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19 infection “in real-world conditions” and that vaccines are recommended for everyone who is eligible.
“These new data on the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are extremely encouraging, and show how important it is for people to get vaccinated. Continuing our studies is becoming even more important as COVID-19 variants with increased transmissibility expand globally,” said a statement from Dr. Jeff Burgess, associate dean for research and professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and principal investigator of the Arizona Healthcare, Emergency Response, and Other Essential Workers Surveillance (AZ HEROES) study whose data went into the CDC report.
— Alison Steinbach