There were 540 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Arizona today, bringing the state total to 874,605. There were 17 new COVID-19 related deaths, the state total is at 17,497. 44.1% of Arizonans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
This information comes from the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 data dashboard.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance last week that anyone who is fully vaccinated may resume pre-pandemic behavior. Specifically, they advised that the fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or engage in physical distancing. Arizona Public Health Association’s Will Humble agrees that this is the right change. In a subsequent Will’s Blog, Humble reiterates his talking point from the rollback of state-specific COVID-19 guidance for businesses:
Will that kind of behavior create a dangerous environment? Not really, because:
So many folks have now been vaccinated now (especially people over 65);
We now know that the real-life efficacy of the dominant vaccines is as good or better than what was found in the clinical trials;
We have evidence that persons that have been vaccinated are very unlikely to carry or shed the virus to others; and
The vaccines are working on all known variants.
According to the Washington Post, however, the vaccine doesn’t work on some individuals with underlying conditions like blood cancers and organ transplants. Many people with these conditions are electing to behave as though they are not vaccinated, for fear of becoming ill if they do not produce enough antibodies after receiving the vaccine.
On the other hand, the state is seeing a small surge in interest for the COVID-19 vaccine, due in part to the CDC announcement and also to the expansion of eligibility for Arizonans between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age. According to an ADHS press release, nearly 6,000 doses were administered in the first day it was offered to younger teens.
In response to the CDC announcement, the Pima County Board of Supervisors rescinded its mask mandate officially but the county health department still recommends that unvaccinated people still wear face coverings. From Dr. Theresa Cullen, Pima County public health director, via KVOA:
As a concise, reiteration of their recommendation – anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing. The bottom line is that we are aligning ourselves with what the CDC indicated yesterday, what their guidance was for the country.
Fox10 Phoenix reports that many churches, like Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, are now following CDC guidances and saying that vaccinated parishioners do not need to wear a mask. From OLPH’s Father Gregory Schlarb:
Whether they’re comfortable with a mask or without a mask on, everyone is glad to be together, worship together. To see faces, to greet one another…it frees us up a little more.
Long-term Care and Skilled Nursing
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a new rule last week that will require long-term care facilities and residential facilities for adults with disabilities to educate staff and offer the COVID-19 vaccine to staff and residents. This requirements aligns with current recommendations for the flu and enforcement will begin on June 14, 2021, according to the National Law Review.
CMS is also requiring that vaccination efforts are reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network, the most widely used health care associated tracking system and the information will be available to the public on CMS’s Nursing Home Data website.
COVID-19 accelerated the shift to private skilled nursing according to Skilled Nursing News, as the change is up 31% since 2019. Georgia-based Pruitt Health CEO Neil Pruitt, Jr. told SNN that the company intends to increase private room inventory from 14% to 32% in the next five years.
We’re moving very quickly to open up new wings and create all-private-room facilities, and I think this will impact our ability to recover. I’ve said all along that there’s a 15% to 20% contraction in the skilled nursing industry that’s going to occur.
Senior-oriented care networks and organizations are pivoting to a focus on social isolation and chronic disease management according to a new report, Healthcare Executive Intelligence reports. 81% of senior care providers report focusing on social isolation, and that number jumps to 88% in SNFs and LTCs.
For an optimistic view of how the American healthcare system could learn lessons and improve after COVID-19, check out NPR’s interview with Dr. Shantanu Nundy, author of Care After COVID: What the Pandemic Revealed Is Broken in Healthcare and How to Reinvent It.