PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona will expand an existing COVID-19 vaccination site on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson and convert it into a state site with higher capacity for administering shots, state officials announced Wednesday.
The current campus site, now one of five Pima County distribution sites in metro Tucson, will become the third state-run site and the first in southern Arizona.
"We're very excited," said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services. “What we're hoping to do is to be able to expand hours, expand access and provide additional resources to increase vaccination at this site.”
The new site will be a partnership between the state, the university and the Pima County Health Department.
State and county officials have said they have capacity to administer many more vaccinations but need the federal government to provide more doses. Arizona was recently asked to re-submit a request for another 300,000 doses each week but have not received a reply yet, according to Christ.
Each county’s allotment is proportional to how many people in each priority group reside there. So, the opening of the Tucson site will not impact vaccine supply at any of the mass vaccination sites in Phoenix. Regardless of the current number of doses in Pima County, Christ said it's important to have a large site in the area that can be ready to pivot to a 24-hour operation when there are more.
“We always think that it’s better to have the resources established — make sure they've got staffing, funding management systems put into place — so that when we do get increase in vaccine, those sites are ready to go to full capacity,” Christ said.
The transition of the campus site will begin with appointments starting on Feb. 18 and registration for those appointments will begin on Feb, 16, the statement said.
The site’s conversion will increase its capacity from about 1,000 vaccinations daily, possibly up to 6,000, but there’s still a need for more doses, county officials said in a statement.
“I caution everyone that without increased vaccine to operate this expanded (site) and to maintain current county vaccinations efforts, vaccinating vulnerable and disadvantaged populations will be more difficult,” County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said.
The state opened its round-the-clock vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on Jan. 11 and a daytime-hours site near Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Feb. 1. According to Arizona State University public health officials who have been assisting at the sites, more than 200,000 doses in total have been given across both venues.
Arizona began administering COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December, and the state Department of Health Services said vaccination sites were on track Wednesday to pass the milestone of 1 million doses.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took a virtual tour of the State Farm Stadium site on Monday as part of the administration's planning for increased vaccination capacity nationwide.
Neither Biden nor Harris addressed Ducey’s request to increase Arizona’s weekly allotment of vaccine. The state's congressional delegation also has asked the administration for more shots for Arizona.
In other developments:
— The state on Wednesday reported 1,997 additional known COVID-19 cases and 176 deaths, increasing the state's pandemic totals to 789,245 cases and 14,462 deaths.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continued to drop ,with 2,589 occupying inpatient beds as of Tuesday. That's about half of the pandemic high of 5,082 on Jan. 11, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.
Meanwhile, rolling seven-day averages of new daily cases and daily deaths decreased over the past two weeks, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.
— Airbnb said it suspended 70 listings in Arizona for violations of party policies, including restrictions implemented since the pandemic began in early 2020, local media reported.
Airbnb said the suspended listings were in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Flagstaff, Sedona and Paradise Valley. ___ Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.