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Pima County COVID cases hit plateau as summer winds down

Pima County health officials continue to watch for COVID spread at the University of Arizona after students returned to campus in August.
Posted at 10:23 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-04 01:28:41-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — As Labor Day weekend arrives and summer comes to an end, Pima County’s summer surge of COVID-19 cases may be starting to dwindle, too.

“I’m increasingly feeling like we’re either plateauing, and perhaps even starting to go down,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County’s Chief Medical Officer.

Fall is approaching and that means cooler weather and more time spent outside, which for Garcia is also encouraging.

“I actually am hopeful for a much more normal-looking fall,” he said.

Garcia is not yet declaring victory, however. He would like to see a steep decline in cases through mid and late September before feeling confident that the surge is over.

Schools remain a big focus in Pima County. Since classes resumed about a month ago, schools have reported 1,413 COVID cases (1,225 students, 188 staff).

But Garcia says most of the COVID spread happens outside of school, when people gather at home or elsewhere in the community.

“Even though it is happening occasionally in classrooms, it’s most of the time not occurring in classrooms,” he explained, praising local schools’ mitigation efforts.

Garcia says he’s still concerned about college students who returned to the University of Arizona and Pima Community College two weeks ago.

“That group of particularly social, gregarious individuals, we’re still seeing some cases associated with them,” Garcia said.

Garcia says hospital capacity is “not ideal” but he is encouraged by COVID patients filling only 20% of ICU beds. He says 98% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated.