As of this week, more than 19,000 people in Arizona have died from COVID-19. I grieve for all of them, and for the families and loved ones who endure their loss.

Those of us in public health have worked constantly since January 2020 to help Arizonans protect themselves from COVID-19. We take these unfortunate milestones personally, including this week’s. 

Passing 19,000 deaths is a reminder that COVID-19 remains active in all parts of our state. Since late June, the highly contagious Delta variant has driven a third wave of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. What’s different during this wave is the presence of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, which have clearly helped keep cases, hospitalizations and deaths lower than they might otherwise have been.

During August, 86.6% of the 91,766 new cases in Arizona involved those who weren’t fully vaccinated. That means approximately 12,300 people out of the more than 3.5 million who have been fully vaccinated tested positive for COVID-19. No vaccine is 100% effective at preventing disease, but as you’ll see in the next data points the COVID-19 vaccines are quite effective at preventing severe outcomes. 

From March through late August, 92.4% of hospitalizations for COVID-19 involved people who weren’t fully vaccinated. During the same period, 93.2% of deaths from COVID-19 involved those who weren’t fully vaccinated. 

Nearly every case, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 is now preventable through vaccination. If you are fully vaccinated and get a rare breakthrough case of COVID-19, your symptoms are much, much less likely to be severe.

Vaccines work. They have helped humanity defeat measles, whooping cough, and polio, among other diseases. They can do the same for COVID-19. 

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, free, and widely available around Arizona for those ages 12 and older. The Pfizer vaccine has full Food and Drug Administration approval for use in those 16 and older, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, now available through emergency use authorization, are not far behind in getting full approval. 

If you remain hesitant to get vaccinated, please seek out facts from trusted sources such as your doctor, the ADHS website, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Meanwhile, ADHS continues to recommend that everyone do the following where there is substantial or high COVID-19 transmission, as is currently the case across Arizona:

  • mask up in public indoor settings;
  • continue following other proven mitigation strategies, including physical distancing of at least 6 feet and frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer;
  • stay home if sick; and
  • get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or 3-5 days after exposure to someone who is positive. 

It will take all of us, including eligible individuals who have yet to be vaccinated, to finally put COVID-19 in its place and return to normal lives.