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Percent positivity moves to high, COVID-19 cases rise in Coconino County

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Worth a Snowy Wait

Alex Morgan, 20, and Jacon Gopp, 19, wait at the end of a snowy line for their first COVID-19 vaccine after Coconino County opened up vaccination appointments to everyone over 18 years old in this March file photo. At one point more than 100 people were lined up in the snow waiting at the Elks Lodge vaccination center.

COVID-19 metrics are rising in Coconino County again this week, according to a dashboard data report released Friday, as both percent positivity and case rates increased during week and are at a high level of transmission.

A total of 543 new cases were reported in the county this week, surpassing the 514 reported for the same week last year. The case rate is now 383.8 cases per 100,000 people. After moving down into the moderate category last week (at 7.6%), percent positivity rose to 10.3%, two transmission levels higher.

The incidence of COVID-like illness in county hospitals decreased slightly this week while remaining in the moderate category (from 8% last week to 6.9%). The majority of hospitalized patients are older than 55 years old. One COVID-related death was reported for the week.

Kim Musselman, director of Coconino County Health and Human Services (CCHHS), said the increase was due to a number of factors, including unvaccinated individuals, the delta variant, waning resistance for those vaccinated over six months ago as well as fatigue leading to less caution around mitigation measures.

"It's a combination of all of those things, I think, that are contributing to our increase in numbers, especially as we're getting ready to go into the holidays," she said. "[We're] certainly concerned that that may continue to spike and [will] do everything we can to try to keep that in check."

The highest number of cases recorded in the county so far was 1,284 the week of Jan. 9.

"We're just really hopeful that we're going to be able to contain and maintain, and not see those huge, significant spikes that we saw in January and December of last year," Musselman said.

The highest case rates for the week ending Nov. 13 were in age groups younger than 44 (residents 20 to 44 years old had a case rate of 435 per 100,000 and those younger than 20 had a rate of 434 per 100,000), while percent positivity was highest (13.3%) in county residents between the ages of 45 and 54.

Flagstaff’s K-12 schools reported slightly lower metrics than in the county overall. Charter schools had a moderate level of percent positivity (rising from 6.1% last week to 7.6%), while Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) was in the substantial range (rising from 6.2% to 8%). Both had case rates in the high transmission category -- which were also lower than seen in the county as whole (306 cases per 100,000 for charter schools and 322 per 100,000 for FUSD).

FUSD reported 49 new cases this week, fewer than in recent weeks (57 last week and 64 the two prior). Most were in Thomas Elementary, which had 12 cases, double the number in the schools with the next-highest case numbers (Mount Elden Middle School and Coconino High School each had six cases for the week).

The district has reported 611 cases since the start of the school year.

Northern Arizona University also reported an increase in percent positivity in tests conducted on its campus. Of 3,084 tests conducted last week, 6.2% returned positive. Last week’s rate was 4.6%. Most of the positive tests were of non-NAU affiliated individuals (114, compared to 76 NAU-affiliated positive tests).

The university is managing 72 cases among its students, according to a update released Wednesday.

NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera encouraged people to get tested for COVID-19 and get booster shots, if eligible, before holiday celebrations.

“As we make plans to gather with and travel to our loved ones this holiday season, it’s important to do so safely,” he wrote in a Thursday update. “I know we are all fatigued from what feels like a never-ending pandemic, but staying vigilant and taking extra precautions to help ensure the health of your family and friends is essential.”

A list of testing and vaccine locations in the county can be found at coconino.az.gov/2294/COVID-19-Information.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be allowed to board a flight from a Canadian airport, travel on VIA Rail or board a Rocky Mountaineer train. Alghabra said there will be few exemptions.

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