The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County has jumped in the past four days, from 40 last Thursday evening to 54 as of 5 p.m. on Monday.

And after a long period in which there were no reported hospitalizations of local residents due to the coronavirus, there have now been two confirmed hospitalizations – though neither patient required a ventilator, according to County Health Services Director Jeff Terrell.

Of the 54 local cases, 33 involved people who have since recovered, meaning there were 21 known active cases in the county as of Monday evening.

As for the recent increase in overall infections, Terrell said he couldn’t point to any specific causes.

“I couldn’t give you any updated information as far as that goes right now, because we’re still in the process of making those contacts,” he told the NI on Monday morning, when the local case count stood at 49.

However, he pointed out that testing blitzes around the state and loosened state regulations regarding who can be tested have allowed more people to get checked for infections.

There haven’t been any testing blitz events in Santa Cruz County – the closest have been in Tucson – but Terrell noted that the loosened restrictions have allowed for more people, including asymptomatic individuals, to get tested at already established testing centers.

“We’re expecting a bit of a spike because more people are being tested right now,” he said. “There’s more tests being done down here, too. The testing has increased, so that’s why we think we’re seeing more.”

Data posted Monday morning by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed 415 people from Santa Cruz County had been tested for COVID-19, an increase of 115 since Thursday, May 7. On April 30, the number of county residents who had received definitive test results was 232.

Despite the gains, Santa Cruz County had the lowest testing rate of any of Arizona’s 15 counties, according to calculations based on data from the Arizona Department of Health Services posted Monday and 2010-2019 U.S. Census population estimates.

Those calculations showed Santa Cruz County with a rate of 89 tests per 10,000 residents. Graham and Mohave counties had the next-lowest rates, with approximately 101 tests per 10,000 residents.

Apache County had the highest testing rate at 401 tests per 10,000 residents, followed by La Paz (322) and Navajo (319).

Statewide, there were 11,380 confirmed cases in Arizona as of Monday morning, with 542 deaths attributed to COVID-19. More than 150,000 people around the state had been tested with definitive results.

Re-opening begins

Stores offering “non-essential” services in Arizona were allowed to begin re-opening last week, and Monday marked the first day that restaurants could resume dine-in service.

As Santa Cruz County’s economy begins re-opening and people have the option of once again going out to eat, Terrell advised residents to continue following the same safety precautions that have previously been recommended by health officials.

“The whole purpose is that they still promote social distancing – that the tables are six feet apart, that you’re not in a party of more than 10,” he said of restaurants. “It’s the same message that’s been out there since the beginning.”

In Nogales, Sonora, where strict restrictions on public activity remain in place, there were 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases and five deaths, according to a report delivered by the state health secretary on Sunday evening.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in a community is unlikely to represent the true number of infections, since many people who are infected show no or mild symptoms, and relatively few people are tested for it. Those who are asymptomatic can still transmit the disease, which is why public health officials are urging social distancing even in areas where there are low numbers of confirmed cases.

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