A nurse administers the Moderna coronavirus vaccine. Photo by Bob McGovern

Good news prevailed in this week’s COVID-19 virus reporting issued by Pinal County Public Health. There were only 52 new cases in the county in the week ending Friday, Feb. 26 and just 11 hospitalizations and one fatality. The county’s positivity rate dropped to 14.1 percent.

This marked the fourth consecutive week in which the county’s number of cases has declined, and the fifth in the past six weeks. The county has now administered a total of 75,462 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which includes both first and second doses. The county still is vaccinating only those in the 1-A and 1-B1 groups, which include health care professionals, EMS and paramedics; long-term care residents; essential workers and infrastructure workers, including law enforcement, corrections officers, educators, food and agricultural workers, utility and transportation workers, and those 65 years of age and older.

There has now been a total of 46,003 cases in the county, resulting in 3,788 hospitalizations and 784 deaths. Overall, the county’s positive test rate is 8.2 percent, and the fatality rate is 1.6 percent.

Maricopa vaccine locations include both Walgreen’s stores in town, Fry’s, the Maricopa branch of the Pinal County Health Clinic and Southwestern Pediatrics. Visit this Pinal County site for a list of vaccination sites and to register for an appointment.

On a statewide level, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced Monday a hybrid approach that makes Arizonans 55 and older eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The new approach launches today in metro  Phoenix.

The new hybrid approach will ensure the distribution of vaccine doses to individuals at the highest risk of severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death while allowing local health departments to prioritize frontline essential workers through employer-based vaccination strategies, according to ADHS.

People 55 and older represent 90% of deaths from COVID-19 and about 65% of hospitalizations in Arizona. Including adults 55 and older in the vaccine prioritization category will cover between 56 and 66 percent of Arizonans with medical conditions that place them at severe risk for adverse outcomes due to the virus, ADHS said.

Local health departments may transition to the next age category when they reach 55 percent of that age category vaccinated or when they feel there is no longer demand for vaccine. ADHS will add data to its website showing the percent of the population vaccinated in each age category to provide information for when counties may be progressing to the next age category. This strategy allows everyone in the state to know about when they will be eligible to receive vaccine. Those with chronic conditions will be included in their respective age categories.

“As more vaccine reaches Arizona, we will continue refining our plan to maximize the benefits of this still-limited resource,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ. “Moving to a hybrid approach will allow us to rapidly and efficiently administer the vaccine and provide all Arizonans with a clearer estimate of when they will be eligible to be vaccinated.”

At noon Tuesday, March 2, ADHS will open registration for about 50,000 vaccination appointments at State Farm Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium to those 55 and older for appointments to begin Thursday, March 4. Those in groups prioritized for vaccination can register for appointments at those two mass vaccination sites and others at

Those 55 and older can also schedule appointments at pharmacies and federally qualified health centers participating in federal vaccination programs.

More than 1.8 million doses of vaccine have been administered to more than 1.2 million Arizonans, including nearly 600,000 who have received both doses.

Another bit of good news came in the form of the long-awaited Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine, which received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration Friday and was expected to ship Monday. The Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine requires just a single dose and is stable at refrigerated temperatures when shipped or stored, unlike the Moderna vaccine which must be kept at extremely cold temperatures. The CDC is advising that initial shipments of Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be limited.

Pinal County health officials issued a reminder that only county residents may be inoculated at county vaccination locations, including the new location at the Florence library. Also, appointments are required for all vaccines; walk-ins are not accepted.