What You Need to Know-Week of February 1st

The most important weekly updates for you to keep your community healthy




In this Update:

1. Urgent Updates: Transmission, Hospital Capacity, Vaccine Information, & Testing Information

2. Information You Need: How mRNA vaccines work

3. Take Caution during COVID-19: Increasing Reporting of Rare Symptoms




1. Urgent Updates: Transmission, Hospital Capacity, Vaccine Information, & Testing Information



Updated as of: 02-01-2021
Current Transmission Status: High

Transmission:

New reported cases per day within Arizona have decreased 28% compared to two weeks ago, but transmission is still very high across the state! In the past week Arizona has averaged nearly 7,000 new cases per day. Currently, per every 100,000 Arizonans, 10,093 have been infected with the virus. For regularly updated case counts and additional COVID-19 information by county, visit the Arizona Department of Health’s data dashboard summary page.

  • Please continue to stay home and take the necessary precautions (e.g., practicing hand hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing cloth face coverings) to prevent COVID-19. 
  • Remember that while interacting with others outdoors does reduce your likelihood of a COVID-19 infection compared to being indoors, it is still necessary to wear a cloth face covering and maintain physical distancing from anyone who is outside of your household.

Current Hospital Capacity: High Concern

Hospital capacity remains a major concern for Arizona. During the past week, there were an average of 4,421 COVID-19 patients in Arizona hospitals. Currently only 8% of ICU beds, 9% of in-patient beds, and 50% of emergency department hospital beds across the state are available for any incoming admissions. Healthcare workers are incredibly overwhelmed and have less time, resources, and staff to devote to usual care including elective medical and surgical procedures. 

  • It is important to note that hospital capacity percentages only account for available beds and do not account for available staff members or resources, which are dwindling. 

However, it is still important to remember that if you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency, you should seek emergency medical care immediately.

Visit this link and click on “Hospital Bed Usage & Availability” for updated information regarding hospital capacity in Arizona.

Vaccine Information:

Over 500,000 vaccines have been administered across Arizona! Most counties are in the 1B priority phase. Each phase of the vaccine distribution plan and the phases that Arizona counties are in are outlined below:


Phase 1
County Phase


Phase 1A:
Healthcare Workers & Healthcare Support Occupations, Emergency Medical Services Workers, Long-term Care Facility Staff & Residents
Phase 1B Priority:Education & Childcare Workers, Protective Services Occupations, Adults 75 and older, Remaining 1ACochise, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Maricopa, Mohave, Yavapai, Yuma, Pima, Pinal
Phase 1B:Education & Childcare Workers, Protective Services Occupations, Adults 75 and older, Essential Services/ Critical Industry Workers, Adults with High-Risk Conditions in Congregate Settings, Remaining 1AApache, La Paz, Navajo, Santa Cruz
Phase 1C:Adults 65 and Older, Adults of Any Age with High-Risk Medical Conditions, Adults Living in Congregate Settings, Remaining 1A & 1B

Phase 2

 
Additional High-Risk/ Critical Populations, General Public, Remaining Phase 1 Populations

Phase 3
General Public, Remaining Phase 1 or 2 Populations

Non-residents (e.g., students and other people who reside in Arizona part-time) are eligible to receive the vaccine in Arizona. All Arizona residents can register to be vaccinated in their own county or in Phoenix. 

You may also sign up for an Arizona Vaccine Program secure portal account to schedule your vaccination appointment when it is your time to do so. Use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome as your browser for best usability.

Testing:

Accessing testing may still be very difficult. Many testing sites require an appointment or prior registration to get tested. Use this link to find a testing site near you. 



2.   Information You Need: How mRNA vaccines work


As Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are distributed across the state, you may be wondering more about how this specific vaccine type works. Messenger RNA vaccines, also commonly called “mRNA vaccines,” are a newer, but well understood, way to protect our bodies from infectious diseases.    

Other common vaccines, such as the flu shot, inject dead or inactivated flu virus particles to cause an immune response. Instead, mRNA vaccines contain what is called messenger RNA (mRNA) which gives our cells instructions to make  a part of the virus called the “spike protein, Once the immune system has made the protein the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. The spike protein gets displayed on the cell surface and can then be recognized by our immune system.  After the immune system has seen it once, it recognizes the protein on the actual virus and can produce antibodies and other immune cells quickly to destroy it before it becomes a problem. 

Below are some simplified steps to demonstrate how these mRNA vaccines work.

  1. The mRNA vaccine is given as a shot in the upper arm muscle. 
  2. Muscle cells then use the protein-creating instructions provided by the mRNA to make the piece of protein 
  3. The cell breaks down the mRNA instructions after creating the protein piece
  4. The muscle cell then presents the created protein piece on the cell’s surface
  5. Our body’s immune system notices that this is not a usual protein and it begins to make antibodies to mount an immune response to that specific protein. 
  • This process is similar to what happens when our bodies are actually infected with the COVID-19 virus, but since it is not a whole virus it cannot replicate in the body. 
  • Vaccines prevent our bodies from getting ill and experiencing serious health effects of the virus.

This process causes an immune response and in some people can cause fatigue, aches, fever, and other symptoms that are limited. This happens more on the second dose. A second dose is needed to have the vaccine be as effective as possible, up to 95%! Given the long term consequences of infection with the actual virus (lung damage, blood clots, neurological problems), having limited symptoms for a day or two is much less risky. 

For more information you can watch this video segment by Dr. Bhattacharya on mRNA vaccines, or you can visit this CDC link.


3.  Take Caution during COVID-19: Potential Rare Symptoms


The most common symptoms for COVID-19 include:

  • Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath (or difficulty breathing), fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste of smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. 

More severe symptoms of the virus include:

  • Breathing difficulty, chest pain or pressure, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, and bluish lips or face. 

However, in addition to the more commonly reported symptoms above, healthcare professionals are noticing an increase in reporting for rare symptoms that are not currently on the CDC symptom list. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • More gastrointestinal symptoms: In addition to commonly reported nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, some may experience a loss of appetite.
  • Skin rashes: Increasing reports of skin rashes have been associated with COVID-19 patients. Some individuals have reported a red, patchy rash, while others report hives or a “chickenpox-like” rash mostly affecting the hands and feet. 
  • “COVID Toes”: This is also a rash-like symptom that is being seen more often with COVID-19 cases. “COVID Toes” refers to a noticeable red, purple, or pink discoloration of the tips of the toes. This symptom can occur after the infection has already passed. 
  • Eye-related issues: Enlarged red blood vessels, swollen eyelids, excessive watering of the eyes, increased discharge, and light sensitivity may be associated with COVID-19. 
  • Blood clots: Inflammation and infections are known to increase one’s risk of clotting. However, doctors and studies are seeing a high percentage (potentially 30-40%) of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experiencing blood clots. If you are at risk for blood clotting, be sure to take your blood thinning medication as directed.
  • Delirium: This symptom is almost exclusively seen among the elderly and can be coupled with disorientation and falls, incoherence and speech issues, and severe confusion.
  • Hearing Loss: Some evidence demonstrates that hearing loss or tinnitus is associated with COVID-19, but more research is needed to reach any conclusions.

At this time, more data and scientific evidence is necessary to determine whether or not these symptoms are specific to COVID-19, but it is a good idea to pay attention to any unusual health issues that you are experiencing.  

COVID-19 symptoms usually develop between 2-14 days after exposure. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is a good idea to get tested and if your symptoms are severe, call your doctor.

The University of Arizona is conducting a long-term study to examine the long term effects of the virus. For more information, visit this link.




The next update will cover what safety precautions are needed after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to COVID-19 in Arizona, please complete next week’s AZCOVIDTXT survey that you will receive via text in about a week.

View Updates from Past Weeks:
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