Authorities confirmed 15 COVID-related deaths of Santa Cruz County residents during the week leading up to Thursday, bringing the local toll since the start of the pandemic to 113 deaths.

It was the highest number of coronavirus deaths reported in the county in any one-week period, and surpassed the total number of deaths reported during the combined three-month period of September through November.

Also during the week leading up to Thursday, the County Health Services Department reported 42 new hospitalizations of local residents due to COVID-19. That brought the pandemic total to 441 hospitalizations.

The date that a death or hospitalization is confirmed is not necessarily the date that it happened, due to lags in the reporting process. For example, the county’s tallies of deaths and hospitalizations remained unchanged during the first four days of the year. The numbers shot up during the subsequent three days.

In a story published Thursday, The Associated Press reported that the death toll in Arizona from the pandemic was nearing 10,000 after state health officials reported 297 new virus-related deaths. However, the AP noted, most of the newly reported deaths were attributed to recent reviews of past death certificates.

As of Thursday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Santa Cruz County residents since the start of the pandemic was 6,400, an increase of 424 cases since the previous week.

The AP reported Thursday that Arizona has the worst coronavirus diagnosis rate in the country, with one out of every 119 people in the state testing positive in the past week. In Santa Cruz County, the figure was approximately one in every 110 residents.

In terms of test positivity, data published Thursday by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed that 26.2 percent of local residents who took a COVID-19 test during the week of Dec. 20-26 tested positive for the disease. That was the most recent week for which test positivity numbers were available from the state.

During the same week, the statewide positive test rate was 19.8 percent.

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