PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's most populous county on Thursday began providing COVID-19 vaccinations to willing jail inmates who are 55 or over, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office announced.
The county Correctional Health Services Department received 400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the county Public Health Department earlier this week for administration to inmates, the Sheriff's Office said.
The county's five jails have 318 inmates who are 55 or older, the office said.
“We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and are appreciative for the partnership with CHS and Public Health as we continue working towards restarting jail programs, expanding resources, and turning the page on this pandemic," Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a statement.
In other developments, the state on Thursday announced the availability of 5,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments at two large state-run sites in metro Phoenix and reported 284 additional confirmed cases and 59 more deaths.
Cancellations made the vaccination appointments for people 55 and older available for online signups at State Farm Stadium and Chandler-Gilbert Community College, the Department of Health Service said.
Gov. Doug Ducey's office also announced a partnership to expand an existing vaccination site at the Yuma Civic Center. Starting on March 29, the site will operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. and will initially offer 8,000 appointments a week. The state will help Yuma County, the city and Yuma Regional Medical Center run the expanded operation.
The state already operates three mass vaccination sites in metro Phoenix and one in Tucson and is planning to open a site in the Flagstaff area. State sites are currently administering vaccine to people age 55 and older.
Thursday was the sixth consecutive day that the state reported fewer than 1,000 cases. Arizona's pandemic totals now stand at 834,607 cases and 16,645 deaths, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.
The number of COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds continued to drop, with 743 occupying the beds as of Wednesday, down from the Jan. 11 pandemic high of 5,082.
The state's seven-day rolling average of daily new cases declined from 1,141 on March 2 to 813 on Tuesday while the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths dropped from 66 to 26 during the same period, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.