Arizona reports 69 more deaths, sets hospitalization records

People get tested at a drive thru coronavirus testing site at South Mountain Community College, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Phoenix.

PHOENIX (AP) — The coronavirus outbreak in Arizona has produced 69 additional deaths and record numbers of hospitalizations, according to data released Saturday by state health officials.

The death toll increased to 2,151, and the state Department of Health Services reported 3,038 additional confirmed cases, increasing the state's total to nearly 120,000.

However, the number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

A new high of 3,485 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Friday when records also were set for the number of coronavirus patients in ICU beds and on ventilators. However, the number of emergency room visits for COVID-19 dropped Friday for the third straight day.

Arizona became one of the nation's hot spots for COVID-19 after Gov. Doug Ducey in May relaxed stay-home orders and other restrictions.

Now, hospitals are near capacity, with 88% of the licensed beds occupied and 90% of the intensive care beds filled.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Ducey on Thursday capped restaurants at half of their capacity but declined to shut them down entirely. He also announced the state will increase testing with a focus on low-income areas of Phoenix as many people report it’s hard or impossible to find tests. It also is paying for a private lab to greatly increase its daily capacity. Most people have been waiting up to a week or more for test results.

The state's health director said Friday that there were early signs that the masks and other orders may be having an effect; the increases in cases and the rate of positive diagnostic tests appear to have flattened out.

“It’s encouraging,” Dr. Cara Christ said. “We have not turned the corner but it’s more encouraging than it was a week ago.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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