Arizona COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are going up as delta variant spreads

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Arizona health officials say there is "definitely an uptick" in COVID-19 cases, likely because of the delta variant.
Arizona COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are going up as delta variant spreads

Arizona health officials say there is, "definitely an uptick" in COVID-19 cases across the state, likely due to the highly contagious delta variant.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated Arizonans should care about the increase in cases because more transmission of the virus raises the likelihood of so-called "breakthrough" cases, Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona Department of Health Services director, said this week.

A breakthrough case occurs when someone becomes infected with the SARS-CoV-​2 virus, or new coronavirus, that causes COVID-19, even though vaccinated. Such cases are rare, but they do happen.

As of Monday, Arizona had recorded 3,540 breakthrough COVID-19 cases out of more than 3.2 million fully vaccinated people, Steve Elliott, a state health department spokesperson, wrote in an email. Twenty-eight of those vaccinated people are known to have died from COVID-19, Elliott said.

"It's definitely an uptick in cases," Christ said Wednesday in an interview. "You've got a more highly transmissible variant that we know is in Arizona. We still have a number of unvaccinated individuals."

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Hospitalizations and ICU beds in use across Arizona have seen a recent uptick, too, but are nowhere near the levels seen during the surges of last summer and winter.

Hospitals in Show Low, Kingman and Phoenix have reported slight jumps in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including increases in the number that are critically ill and in intensive care.

The delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, originated in India and is likely the most contagious strain of COVID-19 in circulation and is an example of how viruses typically continue to mutate. The more opportunity SARS-CoV-​2 has to mutate, the higher the chance it has to become resistant to the COVID-19 vaccines that are in use, many health experts say.

The delta variant has been increasing…
Stephanie Innes and Alison Steinbach, The Arizona Republic
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