Arizona readies stadium as vaccination site as cases mount

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A droplet falls from a syringe after a health care worker was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I., Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona reached another new high Monday as the state ramps up its vaccine efforts, including turning an NFL stadium into an around the clock vaccination site.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported that a record 4,997 people were hospitalized because of the virus and that 1,158 were in intensive care units. Those numbers are significantly above what the state, now considered a hotspot, experienced during its last surge in July.

Health officials said there were 8,995 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths. That brings the total number of cases in Arizona since the pandemic began to 627,541. The state’s death toll stands at 10,147.

Meanwhile, Arizona is getting ready to embark on the next phase of its vaccine rollout plan.

Dr. Cara Christ, Department of Health Services director, and other officials were scheduled Monday to trumpet the opening of the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium as a mass vaccination site. State Farm Stadium in Glendale will be a 24-7 drive-thru operation.

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, will begin vaccinating the next tier of eligible groups — including teachers, people age 75 and older, and protective service workers like police and firefighters. Several other Arizona counties already have expanded vaccine eligibility and began registering those groups to receive the vaccinations this month.

Leaders of Arizona’s largest hospital systems and others have repeatedly called on Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, to implement tighter restrictions to stop the virus’ spread.

Ducey has rejected those calls, saying local officials should enforce existing restrictions.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.