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Arizona doles out over half its vaccine supply; more coming

PHOENIX — Arizona has administered more than half of its COVID-19 vaccine supply but is expected to get more than 1 million additional doses soon, health officials said Tuesday.

The Arizona Department of Health Services’ daily vaccine report shows the state has given out 59% of its doses, or more than 702,000, so far. But 1.2 million doses were expected to be shipped this week.

Some have criticized the state’s vaccine rollout, citing a confusing online appointment system that officials say is being improved. Now, 21,000 appointment slots were being added to a state-run vaccination site that opened Monday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Initially, February appointments there were completely booked. But additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine were being sent to the stadium from vaccine providers not using enough of their supply.

The added appointments are from Friday to Feb. 18. Only those in the priority groups are eligible, including health care workers, people over 65, first responders and teachers.

In Arizona, more than 109,000 people have received both injections of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations and confirmed new infections are dropping.

The state reported 2,938 new cases and 238 deaths Tuesday, increasing the pandemic totals to 765,083 infections and 13,362 deaths. The true number is likely far higher because not everyone is tested and some people can be infected without showing symptoms.

There were 3,513 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds as of Monday, down from the pandemic high of 5,082 on Jan. 11.

Seven-day rolling averages of daily cases and deaths declined over the past two weeks, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. The average of new cases dropped from 7,392 on Jan. 18 to 4,893 on Monday, while deaths dropped from 187 to 126.

Despite that, Arizona had the third-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the U.S. over the past week, trailing Texas and South Carolina. One in every 209 residents was diagnosed.

It comes after Arizona had the worst rate for much of January, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Despite the dip in numbers and the rollout of vaccines, state schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said Tuesday that it’s still not safe for students to return to complete in-person learning.

Hoffman and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey have been at odds over how quickly to get teachers and students back in classrooms. Last month, Ducey said he would not fund “empty seats” and backfill money to schools that had lost enrollment. In Arizona, schools receive less per-student funding for online attendees.

In her State of Education address, the Democratic superintendent called for support of a proposal by Senate Republicans to fully fund distance learning this school year. Many educators have yet to gain peace of mind from a vaccine because of the state’s “bumpy, uneven rollout,” Hoffman added.