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COVID rise slows as Coconino County sets another record

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Booster Desire Surges with Omicron

A sign inside the Flagstaff Mall shows patrons which way to go for their COVID-19 shots in this file photo.

COVID-19 cases continued to rise in Coconino County for the week ending Saturday, Jan. 15, after two record-breaking weeks began 2022. The most recent week’s rise is slower than in previous weeks, however, with a slight drop in percent positivity and 3,430 new cases reported in the data dashboard (compared to 3,085 the week before).

A total of 3,085 new cases (a rate of 2,364.8 per 100,000) were reported the previous week (ending Jan. 8), nearly twice the earlier number of 1,629 reported the week of Jan. 1 (the rate was 1,151.3). In comparison, the county reported an increase of 345 cases for this week. The case rate was 2,424.2 per 100,000, above the high transmission threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 individuals.

Percent positivity fell slightly in the county for the week from 29.3% to 29.1%, while testing rates continued to rise (to 14,077 tests conducted from 13,498 the previous week). The high transmission threshold for percent positivity is 10%.

The locations with the highest case incidence for the week were tribal communities and Flagstaff, with rates of 2,628.1 and 2,583.2 per 100,000 respectively. Residents between the ages of 20 and 44 had the highest case rate (3,263 per 100,000) and the second-highest percent positivity (30.6%), below those younger than the age of 20 -- who had a positivity yield of 32.4%.

Coconino County Health and Human Services has been recommending a number of mitigation measures in response to the increased spread, including vaccinations, masks and hand-washing, as well as staying home when sick and avoiding crowded areas and in-person meetings whenever possible.

Northern Arizona Healthcare and Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy are partnering for a second distribution of 5,000 N95 masks after the "overwhelming success of last weekend's event." The distribution will take place Sunday at the library parking lot downtown (300 W. Aspen Ave., the entrance will be on Birch Avenue) from 8 a.m. to noon. While supplies last, each individual can receive up to five masks.

Households nationwide also became eligible to receive four free at-home COVID tests from the federal government this week. They can be ordered online at covidtests.gov.

Hospitalizations for the week fell slightly (from 38 to 36), as did The incidence of COVID-like illness in county hospitals (CLI, from 20.2% to 18.5%). Two COVID-related deaths among county residents were reported, up from one the week before.

Omicron continues to be the most common variant in Coconino County, with 513 total cases reported in the dashboard report. TGen’s Arizona COVID-19 sequencing dashboard lists the county as having the second-highest omicron count in state (behind Maricopa County), with 593 sequenced genomes as of Jan. 21. The variant accounted for the majority of sequenced genomes for the week, both statewide (98%) and in Coconino County (100%).

While metrics at Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) matched the county’s slight rise, they fell slightly in Flagstaff’s charter schools. Both had a higher case rate than the county overall (2,511 per 100,000 at charters and 2,663 at FUSD) and a lower positivity yield (28% at charters and 28.4% at FUSD).

FUSD reported a total of 413 cases among its locations for the week ending Jan. 15, the highest weekly rate of the school year to date. The schools with the highest case numbers were Flagstaff High School (116) and Coconino High School (97), followed by Knoles Elementary (31) and Sinagua Middle School (29). The district has reported a total of 1,758 cases during the 2021-2022 school year so far.

Northern Arizona University (NAU) is currently managing 611 cases among its students, 3.2% of the total enrollment (Flagstaff Mountain Campus).

Of the 5,110 tests conducted on its campus, 1,315 had positive results (25.7%). This is slightly lower than the previous week’s positivity rate of 30.4% (1,506 of 4,962 total tests). The majority of the week’s positive tests (713) were of NAU-affiliated individuals.

The university has begun a weekly COVID briefing, published Fridays at nau.edu/legacy/coronavirus/.

In the briefing Friday, President José Luis Cruz Rivera expressed “a sense of hope that we are heading in the right direction and that our university is weathering this new and challenging phase of the pandemic.”

NAU's operating status “will remain unchanged” for the week of Jan. 24, with continued mitigation efforts and in-person instruction as the primary learning format.

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