Arizona reports 881 new COVID-19 cases, 23 more deaths

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Vehicles line up at patrons wait for COVID-19 tests at a drive-thru testing center Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona has 881 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23 more deaths as the demand for vaccines slows, state health officials reported Thursday.

The numbers from the state Department of Health Services bring the overall pandemic totals to 861,653 cases and 17,305 deaths.

The number of patients hospitalized statewide due to the virus increased slightly to 643. According to the state dashboard, 189 of those patients are in the ICU.

Meanwhile, more than 27,000 vaccine doses were administered in Arizona on Wednesday. It’s a low turnout when compared to the peak figure of roughly 75,500 new doses given on March 31. In the past week, the daily turnout for vaccinations has slid, ranging from between 23,000 and just over 38,000. State health officials acknowledged demand for vaccines has slowed.

Debbie McCune Davis, of The Arizona Partnership for Immunization, said the slowdown in vaccine demand may be because many people don’t own a car or can’t miss work to get vaccinated. Another reason may be a lack of education about the vaccine’s importance.

The nonprofit has been sending speakers to certain groups, Davis said. They recently had a speaker discuss vaccination with several refugee families. As a result, 10 of those families went and got vaccinated.

“That’s the formula of how we’re gonna get things done. They want to feel comfortable getting vaccinated and they will act on it,” Davis said. “By contrast, the people going to the (state) PODs have educated themselves.”

In hopes of getting hard to reach areas, Pima County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will launch two mobile vaccination units next week. Each unit will offer 250 vaccines at a site in and around Tucson for three days before moving to another one. The locations include Pima Community College campuses, casinos, and Rillito Race Track. They will be accepting walk-ins.

“The ability to offer vaccines during evenings and weekends will enable us to reach folks whose work or school schedules prevent them from getting a vaccine now,” Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County administrator, said in a statement.

In south Phoenix, community groups Equality Health Foundation and HeroZona will be holding a by-appointment vaccination pop-up event Saturday in the Maryvale neighborhood. It’s at least the fifth such event they’ve done in a historically underserved area, said Alan “A.P.” Powell, HeroZona’s founder. It will be at a middle school gymnasium that is easily reachable by public transportation.

“We’ll keep going as long as people come, as long as we can keep the service going … We want to try to vaccinate the community at large,” Powell said.

Overall, more than 2.9 million people, or around 40% of Arizona’s population, have had at least one vaccine shot, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, while more than 2.2 million are fully vaccinated.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.