234 Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in Arizona

The number of known coronavirus cases is increasing daily.
The number of known coronavirus cases is increasing daily. Wikimedia Commons
This story recaps the biggest developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak from the past several days. For detailed case-by-case information on all of Arizona's coronavirus cases up until Sunday, March 22, read our list.

The latest state update on COVID-19 shows 82 new cases, a 55 percent increase from the day before.

The total count as of Monday morning of people in Arizona who have tested positive, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, is 234.

A majority of the newest cases are in Maricopa County, which has 139 cases to date — 58 new cases since Sunday, March 22, the day that the DHS announced that a second person had died from COVID-19. The man was a Maricopa County resident in his 70s who had an underlying health condition. News of that case came a few days after the announcement that Arizona had experienced its first coronavirus death. That victim was a Phoenix aviation employee who died last Tuesday — though state and county officials said nothing about his death until reporters asked about it on Friday.

Health officials expect that number to continue rising exponentially as testing becomes more widely available. On Monday, Banner Health, the largest health system in Arizona, launched four drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites: three in Phoenix and one in Tucson.

The actual number of cases in the state certainly is much higher than what the DHS is currently reporting, since so many people who have tried to get tested have been refused. The director of the DHS, Dr. Cara Christ, has said there are not enough tests for everyone who wants to get tested.

COVID-19 cases by county
Meg O'Connor
In Maricopa County, 25 people have been hospitalized and seven are in the intensive care unit.

In terms of sheer numbers, confusion has arisen over the number of cases reported in Navajo and Apache counties by the DHS, the number of cases reported by the Navajo Nation (which spans Navajo, Apache, and Coconino counties), and Navajo County itself.

Today, the agency said 25 cases have been identified in Navajo County. Navajo County is reporting the same.

On Monday morning, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said 29 people in the Nation have tested positive for COVID-19, including people in Navajo County, Apache County, and McKinley County in New Mexico.

A Saturday press release from the Nation didn't make things clear, adding separate numbers for Navajo and Apache counties that had no context to the DHS numbers.

Essentially, it's still unclear whether data from the DHS includes Navajo Nation cases in its count for Navajo, Apache, and Coconino counties.

On Sunday, Phoenix New Times asked DHS spokesperson Chris Minnick whether the 13 Navajo County cases identified in Sunday's cases included any from the Navajo Nation. Minnick replied, "Cases reported to Navajo County Public Health are reflected in our data. The Navajo Nation is reporting cases for the entire Nation, which spans three states."

Asked whether or not any Navajo Nation cases were included in the data published by the DHS, Minnick said, "I believe there are, but I’m not sure the count. I’ll check in the morning." By noon on Monday, Minnick had not responded to requests for clarification.

Many of the Navajo Nation's cases originate from the community of Chilchinbeto, prompting the Navajo Health Command Operations Center to issue a Public Health Emergency Order requiring the closure of the community for quarantine and isolation (a shelter-in-place order) to limit the spread of the virus. On Friday night, the Navajo Nation expanded the stay-at-home order to apply to all residents of the Nation. The order requires residents to remain isolated at home and requires all nonessential businesses to close to prevent further spread of the virus.

As far as other Arizona counties, besides the increase in Maricopa and Navajo, since Saturday:

Pima added seven new cases (24 total). Pima County has yet to release any information about the new cases from today, but on Sunday afternoon, health officials said five people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county are hospitalized.

Pinal added one new case (17 total), but has yet to release any additional information on that case.

Coconino identified three new cases (17 total). Coconino County has tested hundreds of people and has two drive-thru testing sites. At least nine of the Coconino cases originate from the Flagstaff area, but the county has not provided additional details.

Apache identified one new case (four total). The county did not provide any additional details.

The DHS said it had tested 352 people for COVID-19 as of today. That's a decrease from the number of people the agency said it had tested on Sunday. The agency said the drop is due to removing 54 samples that were "identified to be inadequate for testing" due to either insufficient sample collection, the tube being broken upon arrival, improper holding temperatures, or "identified as not needing testing upon arrival."

Of those tested as of today, 309 cases have already been ruled out. There are six cases are pending, and 41 of the samples tested by the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory have come back positive. An additional 193 samples tested by private labs have also come back positive. However, officials have yet to provide data on the number of tests carried out by commercial labs, so the scope of testing being done in Arizona remains unclear.

On March 11, there were 1,200 cases of the coronavirus across 41 states in the country.

As of Sunday morning, there are nearly 34,000 known cases across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories. At least 428 Americans have died since becoming infected. The majority of the cases are in New York state (nearly 17,000 confirmed cases and at least 150 deaths).
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.