Alison Steinbach, Arizona Republic
Published 12:45 p.m. MT June 24, 2020 | Updated 4:29 p.m. MT June 24, 2020
Maricopa County public health officials held a briefing Wednesday to outline the latest information on COVID-19 hospitalization rates, contact tracing efforts and how individuals can reduce community spread as numbers continue to spike in the county and statewide.
The county’s cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, totaling 34,992 as of Wednesday, per state data. When the stay-at-home order expired in mid-May, the county had fewer than 7,000 known cases. Overall, 690 individuals have died from COVID-19 in Maricopa County.
“We’ve seen about 36% of all of our cases just in the last week,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “This is very much a dramatic increase that has sustained itself.”
Hospitalizations have been climbing nearly every day across the state, including in Maricopa County. As of Tuesday, 86% of current inpatient beds and 88% of ICU beds were in use for COVID-19 and other patients statewide.
Sunenshine said the county health department meets with hospital leaders on a weekly basis to assess hospital capacity and needs.
An increasing share of the identified cases are younger individuals as more and more have gone out and interacted since reopening. Around 60% of all known county cases are younger than 44 years old, while older individuals made up a majority of cases in early May.
“I want everyone in Maricopa County to understand that every adult has an equal chance of getting infected from COVID-19 when they’re exposed,” Sunenshine said. “We can all spread it to other people who are at higher risk of severe illness and send them to the hospital, even if we just have mild illness ourselves.”
The county also provided an update on the role of contact tracing when faced with increasing case numbers.
Marcy Flanagan, executive director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said the county reaches out to every positive test who has 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 tracing process, health officials said they focus less on where the individual may have been infected and more on who the individual may have exposed to the virus.
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