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Pima County cases plateau, but pediatric cases are surging

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 8:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County health officials are beginning to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, although they are not ready to say things are getting much better.

For adults, nearly 75% have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine which is likely the reason the number of new cases of the Delta variant has remained fairly stable for the past couple of weeks.

The county reached a high point in this latest wave on Aug. 27, with 333 new cases. It’s been below that since.

“It’s too early to claim victory and I’m certainly not doing that,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Pima County Chief Medical Officer. “But the overall trend looks like we may be starting to plateau at the very least.”

But where the concern becomes obvious is in the number of pediatric cases. Those are children under 12 years old who are not eligible for a vaccine.

There were 340 new pediatric cases in the past week and six remain hospitalized with COVID-19.

There have been 1,292 cases of COVID-19 in schools since the beginning of the new school year and 54 outbreaks as of the end of August.

It’s likely those numbers would have been worse if it were not for five large school districts which declared mask mandates for all students and other personnel in defiance of the state’s wishes.

Those districts are Amphitheater, Sunnyside, Catalina Foothills, Marana and Tucson Unified.

The lawmakers passed and the Governor signed legislation prohibiting school districts from passing mask mandates.

The districts have not been challenged as yet although the school districts have argued the prohibitions do not take effect until Sept. 29, and 2) that laws are unconstitutional.

But the health department will argue that the mask mandates work.

“Those are the school districts that right now are having a lower infection rate,” Garcia said. “They numerically may have a lot of cases but proportionally are have a smaller percentage of cases.”

As far as hospitalizations, they are continuing to increase albeit slowly. It’s the same with the number of ICU beds which are being filled.

That’s likely a function of the high vaccination rate although Dr. Garcia said he would like to see it above 80%.

But it is creating a situation in Pima County which is likely the envy of states like Texas and Florida which have nearly run out of available beds.

“Some of the hospitals have been receiving transports from out of state,” he said. “Not of COVID patients but of patients who are requiring urgent surgery but who can’t get it in those states.”

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