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Arizona’s COVID-19 positivity rate nears 10 percent

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TUCSON (KVOA) - As cases rise here in Arizona, one of the benchmarks health officials use to track community spread is percent positivity - the number of people who test positive for COVID-19.

State health officials reported more than 4,471 new coronavirus cases on Friday - the second-highest daily total of the pandemic next to July 1.

“Exponential growth combined with perhaps the biggest mixing holiday of the year, that it’s a recipe for disaster,” Will Humble, the Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association said.  “The time for action was a month ago. The fact is, the handwriting was on the wall a month ago.”

Humble said there are two key metrics officials look at to track community spread.

“You can see the cases per hundred thousand but you can also see the percent positivity is down to say five percent,” Humble said. “That shows you that you’re looking at a metric that you can actually rely on because testing is robust enough that’s you’re capturing most of the cases.”

On Friday, Arizona closed in on a 10 percent positivity rate.

Currently, the COVID-19 positivity rate in Arizona is 9.8 percent.

“As people start coming together inside because of the cooler weather, as people engage and maybe not practice all of those safety measures during the holidays and as people travel, we will see an increase in the number of cases unless people are really doing all of those pieces we need them to do,” Pima County Deputy Health Director Paula Mandel said.

Humble contends this surge is likely to be worse than what we faced this summer.

“The trajectory we’re on right now is going to lead to a hospital capacity crisis in December and it’s going to probably be worse than the one in July,” he said. “Mainly because there’s not going to be the out-of-state nurse pool that was available in June and July because the outbreak is so bad in all of these other states at the same time.”

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Eric Fink

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