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COVID metrics falling in Coconino County; NAU, ASU, UA to require employee vaccination

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Northern Arizona University Covid Precautions

As move-in day approaches for Northern Arizona students, signs have been placed throughout the campus to remind students that masks will be required in all buildings as part of the precautions taken against transmitting or catching COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases in Coconino County fell for the second consecutive week, according to the Friday dashboard data report. While the overall transmission level is still high, percent positivity, case rates and incidence of COVID-like illness in hospitals (CLI) are continuing a downward trend.

The county reported a total of 353 new cases this week.

Percent positivity is still in the moderate level of transmission at 6.8%, down from 7.1% last week. The threshold to move to a low transmission rate is 5% or less. Coconino County has a case rate of 249.5 cases per 100,000, still more than double the high transmission threshold (100 cases per 100,000), but lower than last week’s rate of 274.2 cases per 100,000.

Northern Arizona University reported lower percent positivity this week, as well, in its Wednesday report of tests done on campus. Of the 3,649 tests, 4.4% had positive results, with 58.6% of positive tests coming from NAU-affiliated individuals. Percent positivity at the university has been decreasing by around 0.6% over the past four weeks (since Sept. 18).

The university announced Friday that it will mandate COVID vaccinations for its employees, including student-workers. NAU will require employees to upload their vaccine documentation by Dec. 8, along with Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

In a statement posted on NAU’s website, university President José Luis Cruz Rivera and Vice President Josh Mackey wrote that the mandate was implemented to “comply with requirements from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.”

“We respect individual opinions regarding the vaccine, and will permit religious and disability or medical accommodations as allowed by federal law,” the statement said.

The statement cited President Joe Biden's executive order regarding on compliance with federal COVID-19 workplace guidance and said the universities have “hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts, funding critical research, employment and educational efforts."

NAU is currently working to finalize the details and plans to have more information available by Tuesday.

CLI in county hospitals is at 6.4% (last week’s rate was 7.2%). Of the 13 hospitalized COVID patients reported this week, most are between the ages of 20 and 44, followed by 55- to 64-year-olds. No COVID-related deaths were reported for the week.

According to Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) Hospital Census data, accessed Oct. 15, the hospital had 33 COVID patients. Of FMC’s 268 licensed beds, 224 were listed as occupied, as well as all of its 41 critical care beds.

The delta variant is still the most prevalent in Coconino County, with 1,110 cases being reported to date. The dashboard report now divides variants into those “being monitored” and “variants of concern,” with delta currently being the only variant in the latter category.

The City of Flagstaff reported 250 cases since last week and has a cumulative positivity yield of 9.3% since the start of the pandemic. It also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the county (second to Williams, which has vaccinated 46.6% of its population), with 54.5% of the population being fully vaccinated at the time of the report.

Transmission in Flagstaff schools followed the county numbers, according to the schools report. Flagstaff charter schools and the Flagstaff Unified School District both reported moderate positivity yields (6% and 6.2%, respectively) and high case rates (268 cases per 100,000 for both).

“We’ve kind of plateaued,” FUSD Superintendent Michael Penca said in a board meeting Tuesday about the previous week’s data. “We’re seeing those cases stay really consistent in the high category.”

Metrics in K-12 schools are all lower than last week’s numbers, with charter schools reporting 313 cases per 100,000 and 6.7% positivity. FUSD reported 312 cases per 100,000 and a positivity yield of 6.8% for the same week.

McKenzie Bevirt, FUSD’s chief health administrator, said in the board meeting that the district’s first vaccine clinic hosted at Coconino High School on Oct. 1 was “a huge success.”

More than 100 people were vaccinated against COVID at the event (a combination of first, second and booster doses), “about half” (of whom) were between 12 and 17 years old. Another has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 26.

Most K-12 schools in Flagstaff are on fall break this week and have not reported updated COVID numbers.

Arizona health officials on Friday reported 2,399 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 38 more deaths. Coconino County added 109 cases and zero deaths, bringing its totals to 22,208 cases and 353 deaths.

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