9A.Long term care facilities_Covid-19_cases and deaths_ALAVO

Arizona surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 cases over the Fourth of July weekend with the lion’s share in Maricopa County, where 67,543 people have been reported infected and 933 have died since the start of the pandemic.

The disease’s impact in Pima County is less severe.

With 10,184 total infections and 302 deaths, Pima County’s rate of infection per 100,000 people is 974.8, ranking it ninth among Arizona counties, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County’s population ranks second in the state at 1,047,279.

The state’s overall rate of infection per 100,000 was 1,462 as of Tuesday.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who has long been sounding the alarm in rising cases and need for increased testing, recently touted the county’s “success we have had in keeping COVID-19 infections out of long-term care facilities” in a memo to the Board of Supervisors last week.

From the time COVID-19 was declared a national emergency March 13, the highest number of deaths in a week in Pima County occurred April 5-11, when 37 people died; 27 of those lived in long-term care facilities. Many of those were in Green Valley and Sahuarita. 

Since then, deaths originating from long-term care facilities, and deaths overall have waned in comparison to increased cases and county testing.

In late April, the county began working to increase viral testing availability for individuals at high risk for contracting and dying from the disease and in May declared 494 licensed facilities with vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as their testing priority. By mid-June, the county had deployed 18,486 test kits with 8,748 provided to long-term care facilities.

Countywide viral testing has steadily increased since early April, when the percentage of positives resulting from that testing hovered around 16 percent, according to Arizona Department of Health Services statistics. ADHS includes the results from positive antibody tests where the person being tested reported COVID-like symptoms in its calculation of percent positivity. 

The percentage of positive tests dropped to four percent for nearly a month between April and May but has steadily increased since then and was up to 15 percent by the end of June.

The World Health Organization recommends that countries seeking to lift social distancing restrictions should be doing enough testing to maintain a positivity rate of less than five percent for at least two weeks.

Tuesday, the county announced a one-year, $2 million contract with ASU’s Biodesign Institute to provide laboratory testing services.

Last week it awarded an out of state medical services provider, Maximus Health Services Inc., a six month, $10 million dollar contract to perform contact tracing for the health department. The company plans to hire 150 contact tracers from Pima County.