Dr. Christ: Slight bump in COVID-19 numbers cause for concern, not alarm

After months of improvement, COVID-19 numbers in Arizona leveled off, state officials said – not enough to be alarmed, but enough to raise concerns. And to remind people to follow health protocols like mask-wearing, despite the lack of a statewide mask mandate in Arizona. /Photo by Baker County Tourism/Creative Commons

By Ethan Kispert | Cronkite News

The state health director said Friday that a “very, very small” increase in COVID-19 numbers is cause for concern but not alarm, and should serve as a reminder that people still need to observe health protocols.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said that overall progress against the pandemic is still moving in the right direction, with hospitalizations down sharply and totals vaccinations nearing 4 million doses.

The one troubling number – 1,302 new cases reported Friday by the state – was attributed to bookkeeping, with 625 of those cases detected over the winter but only recorded this week. Christ said those tests, from Gila, Graham and Navajo counties, could not be counted before because it was not clear earlier what type of test had been administered.

“So we know that our data can change, but it shouldn’t undermine anybody’s view of the data because we report real time,” she said.

Other data from the department was good overall. Cases and deaths are down sharply from their peaks during the winter, and the number of beds in intensive care unit occupied by COVID-19 patients stood at 9% on Thursday, compared to as much as 66% in early January.

While the number of positive tests has inched up in recent weeks, from 3.3% to 3.8%, Christ said it is a metric that the department is watching but not worrying about yet.

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