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COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 6:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - While the Pima County Health Department says it can handle the number of school cases which increased dramatically over the past week, it’s not sure why it peaked so fast.

There’s some suspicion it could be Halloween or possibly fall festival activities, but that’s only anecdotal at this time.

The numbers: 738 school cases in Pima County last week, the highest since school began in August and nearly three times a normal week, which is generally 220 or so.

This year, there have been 126 outbreaks, as many as all of last year. In fairness, most of the learning last year was remote.

There have been 82 classrooms closed this year. They’re closed if 10% of the students test positive.

Those are not good numbers but the health department is hoping the roll out of vaccines for the 5-11 age group next week will help slow it down.

Buta lack of vaccines may only be a contributing factor.

“The proclivity for outbreaks to take place usually align with things like mitigation strategies not being implemented, like masking,” said Brian Eller, who is in charge of the schools strategy for the Pima County Health Department.

An outbreak at Agua Caliente Elementary School in the Tanque Verde School District may have contributed to the high numbers.

The school does not have a mask mandate and the district estimates only about 40% of the students wear them.

But it’s not just the schools seeing a spike.

“If you look at the data trackers, you see the Southwest is lighting up right now,” said Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen. “We are not unique in this situation.”

Cases in the state have risen four weeks in a row including 3,819 cases today.

Pima County’s positivity rate is 255 cases per 100,000 people. In May, it was 23.

Pima County’s case numbers are now above a daily rate of 400. It was about 250 a day last month.

“Overall, I think this is a call to the community that people who have not been vaccinated need to vaccinate, people that have been vaccinated more than six months ago need to get a booster, 5 to 11 year old’s need to vaccinate,” said Dr. Cullen.

So far there’s been no in hospitalizations which are “stable” for the time being.

But she said that could change on a dime and become a crisis.

“We have not had a situation where there’s been inadequate ICU beds or pediatric beds in the last few months,” Dr. Cullen said. “But as we approach the winter we remain concerned about that possibility.”

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