(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
This is a regularly updated story with the latest information, news and updates about the coronavirus and its impact in Arizona and beyond for Wednesday, Sept. 23.
PHOENIX – Arizona health authorities reported 438 new coronavirus cases and 27 more deaths on Wednesday morning.
That put the state’s documented totals at 215,284 COVID-19 infections and 5,525 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Multiple key metrics about the severity of Arizona’s pandemic, including coronavirus-related hospitalizations, are at or near the lowest they’ve been in months.
The number of Arizona’s confirmed or suspected COVID-19 inpatients increased for the second consecutive day to 583 on Tuesday, the highest since last Wednesday.
The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds, however, fell to a record low 114.
COVID-19 inpatients peaked at 3,517 on July 13, and COVID-19 patients in ICU beds topped out at 970 the same day.
Overall, inpatient beds were 80% full on Tuesday, 1 point higher than the previous day. The inpatient occupancy rate peaked at 88% on July 9-10.
The ICU occupancy rate was 78% for the second consecutive day. ICU occupancy rate topped out at 91% on July 7.
Hospital bed data on the health department website does not include surge beds that have not been activated but can potentially increase capacity.
Arizona’s weekly positive rate for COVID-19 diagnostic tests has been 4% for the past three weeks, but it’s 5% so far this week with 7,624 tests processed.
The positive rate had been as high as 20% at the end of June.
Weekly rates are based on when the samples are taken, not when they are reported, so the percentage for recent weeks can fluctuate as labs get caught up on testing and the results are documented by the state.
The Arizona health department’s daily reports present case, death and testing data after the state receives statistics and confirms them, which can lag by several days or more. They don’t represent the actual activity over the past 24 hours.
The hospital data posted each morning, however, is reported the previous evening by the hospitals.
As cases skyrocketed in June, local governments in many parts of Arizona — including all of Maricopa County — implemented face mask requirements, and Gov. Doug Ducey issued statewide executive orders to close certain businesses and restrict restaurant occupancy.
The spread of COVID-19 soon slowed and has been steadily falling since the peak of the pandemic. Much of the state has hit benchmarks established by the health department that allow certain businesses to reopen under capacity restrictions and other regulations.
As part of a bump caused by last week’s addition of a recently authorized diagnostic testing process, the rolling seven-day average for newly reported cases increased to 805.29 through Tuesday’s update, according to tracking by The Associated Press, the highest since Aug. 19 but well below the July 6 peak of 3,844.
The seven-day average of newly reported deaths ticked down to 22, higher than last week but well below the July 30 peak of 94.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has no impact on some people and is seriously debilitating or fatal for others. Infected people without symptoms – which include but are not limited to cough, fever and difficulty breathing — are capable of spreading the virus.
Below are Wednesday’s latest developments about the coronavirus pandemic from around the state, country and world: