Arizona passes grim pandemic milestone with 25,000 deaths

In this July 31, 2020, file photo, Romelia Navarro, 64, weeps while hugging her husband, Antonio, in his final moments in a COVID-19 unit at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Arizona’s pandemic death toll on Thursday passed the grim milestone of 25,000 fatalities as hospitals statewide remained crowded with coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health Services reported 10 additional COVID-19 deaths, raising the pandemic’s death toll to 25,002.

The department acknowledged the milestone on Twitter while urging Arizonans to protect themselves and their communities by getting vaccinated, staying home if sick, and wearing masks, and distancing while indoors.

An 11-day string of daily increases ended as COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped slightly, with 2,920 virus patients occupying inpatients as of Wednesday.

The Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus noted the fatalities milestone by criticizing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has urged Arizonans to get vaccinated while opposing mandates for vaccinations or masking.

Ducey, during his State of the State address Monday to the Legislature, took insufficient notice of the pandemic while not mentioning the thousands of Arizona fatalities, the caucus said on Twitter. “These aren’t numbers. They’re parents, friends, neighbors, children.”

In response to a request from The Associated Press for comment, Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said in an email that the pandemic “has taken a heartbreaking toll.”

“No community or state, no country, has been spared. We mourn each and every loss, and we share the grief of the family and friends they left behind,” Karamargin said, adding that it’s important for all Arizonans to get vaccinated.

Arizona ranks 11th among U.S. states in total virus deaths and third, behind only New York and Mississippi, with 343 deaths per 100,000 of population, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arizona passed 10,000 virus deaths last January during that winter’s surge and passed 20,000 fatalities in October amid the buildup of the current wave.

Fatalities continued to increase, with the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rising increasing over the past two weeks from 54.8 on Dec. 28 to 60.3 on Tuesday.

Arizona on Thursday also reported over 18,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases for the second straight day. Wednesday’s daily report of 18,783 additional cases was a pandemic high, though many infections confirmed by home testing aren’t included in public reporting.

The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.