The County Health Services Department reported a total of 2,522 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, up 161 from the total of 2,361 a week earlier.

That marks the third-straight week with a new case total under 200, after five weeks with totals over that mark.

But the lower numbers of new cases are due in part to a slowdown in testing, and there are other signs that the local community isn’t out of the woods when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak.

For one thing, the death toll keeps rising, with the county adding another seven deaths since last Monday.

And Santa Cruz County still has by far the highest positive rate in Arizona – nearly 28 percent – on the test that detects active infections, as well as leading the state in per capita infection rate, according to Arizona Department of Health Services data.

County case totals and the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimate of 46,498 for the county show that 5.4 percent – or more than one out of every 20 – local residents have tested positive for the virus.

And while new cases have slowed in July compared to June – there were 739 new infections confirmed July 1-27, compared to 1,455 in June – there have been more deaths confirmed this month (24) than last (22).

The 46 total confirmed deaths mean nearly one death per 1,000 county residents, using Census Bureau population estimates. That puts Santa Cruz in line with Yuma County in deaths per capita, but still lower than Navajo and Apache counties, which have Arizona’s highest death rates, based on ADHS data.

In early June, as the local case count began to spike, Santa Cruz County still posted relatively low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

But the rising death toll, as well as a total of 129 hospitalizations reported by the County Health Services Department on Monday, have now brought the county roughly in line with state averages in deaths and hospitalizations per confirmed cases.

On Monday, ADHS reported a total of 163,827 infections, 7,751 hospitalizations and 3,304 COVID-19 deaths. That means that 4.7 percent of confirmed cases in Arizona have led to hospitalization and 2 percent have resulted in death.

In Santa Cruz County, the 2,522 infections, 129 hospitalizations and 46 deaths as of Monday give a hospitalization rate of 5.1 percent and a death rate of 1.8 percent.

(COVID-19 data provided by ADHS has consistently differed slightly from numbers published by Santa Cruz County. The state counted 2,517 cases in the county and 49 deaths as of Monday.)

The Santa Cruz County case count could jump in coming days as results start to roll in from the county’s new testing blitz. Jeff Terrell, the county’s health services director, said more than 900 people were tested on Saturday and Sunday, with hundreds more tests expected later this week.

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