Maricopa County public health officials held a briefing on Wednesday to describe the latest information on COVID-19 hospitalization rates, contact search efforts, and how people can reduce community spread as they go. numbers continue to rise across the county and across the state.
County cases have soared in recent weeks, totaling 34,992 as of Wednesday, according to state data. When the stay-at-home order expired in mid-May, the county had fewer than 7,000 known cases. In all, 690 people have died from COVID-19 in Maricopa County.
“We have seen about 36% of all our cases in the last week alone,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “This is largely a dramatic increase that has been sustained.”
Hospitalizations have increased nearly every day across the state, including in Maricopa County. As of Tuesday, 86% of current hospital beds and 88% of ICU beds were in use for COVID-19 and other patients across the state.
Sunenshine said the county health department meets weekly with hospital leaders to assess the hospital’s capacity and needs.
An increasing proportion of the cases identified are younger individuals as more and more have come out and interacted since their reopening. About 60% of all known cases in the county are under the age of 44, with older people making up the majority of cases in early May.
“I want everyone in Maricopa County to understand that all adults have an equal chance of becoming infected with COVID-19 when exposed,” said Sunenshine. “We can all pass it on to other people who are at increased risk for serious illness and send them to the hospital, even if we ourselves have mild illness.”
The county also provided an update on the role of contact tracing when faced with an increasing number of cases.
Marcy Flanagan, executive director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said the county comes up with all positive tests that have contact information available. Cases are asked to provide information to public health, and their contacts are enrolled in a symptom tracking system.
During the contact search process, health officials said they focus less on where the individual may have been infected and more on who may have been exposed to the virus.
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