Arizona’s Hospitals Running Out of Space as State Struggles with COVID Surge

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A Sailor demonstrates how to properly fit an N95 respiratory protective device aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Arizona is currently number one in the USA, but not for a good reason.

It’s number one for the amount of new COVID-19 infections and they’re increasing rapidly. The state’s hospitals are overflowing and don’t know how much more they can take, with doctors stretched to their limit and infections soaring.

How Bad is COVID in Arizona?

Last week Arizona had 11,324 recorded new cases of COVID-19 in a single day, the highest in America on a single day. It also has the most people in hospital due to the disease, with an alarming 16% positive rate coming back overall on those who go in to get tested.

About one in ten Arizonans are currently COVID-19-positive according to statistics analyzed by Johns Hopkins University.

Top AZ Medical Official: ‘Crisis Zone’ is Rapidly Approaching

Chief Medical Officer for Dignity Health Arizon Keith Frey has sounded the alarm over what’s happening, admitting: “we’re the hottest spot in the U.S. and among the hottest spots in the entire world. If we don’t slow this down over the course of the next days and weeks, then we will be fully into that crisis zone.”

Delivering his comments at a recent press conference attended by Arizona’s main healthcare systems, Frey’s comments were seconded by numerous attendees. In fact, only about 7% of the state’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are currently available and about 60% of those in hospital in the state are in hospital from COVID-19.

These are staggering numbers that also have big consequences for people who are not sick with coronavirus, potentially making it much harder for them to get an ICU bed when they need it and get treatment for the diseases and emergencies they are suffering from.

Arizona flag by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What’s Next?

California has been at 0% availability for ICU beds since last month. Doctors there have reported that many times a new bed isn’t available unless the previous person dies.

Fortunately, Arizona has more ICU beds for its population than California and some other areas of the hospital can be converted into places to treat severe cases of COVID-19. Nonetheless, the situation is looking very serious.

Part of the reason is what AZ Medical Association President Ross Goldberg calls a “Christmas surge” of cases spread by those who spent time with friends and family over the holidays.

Despite the case numbers declining last summer, they started going up steeply and by late fall they were climbing rapidly up until this point when they’re off the charts.

Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey had to weight the hit to businesses as well as the danger of the disease, and in recent comments he noted that his decision not to ban indoor dining, for example, was motivated by not wanting working families to fall into extreme poverty.

“If we’re really all in this together, then we have to appreciate that for many families ‘lockdown’ doesn’t spell inconvenience; it spells catastrophe: zero income, inability to make a payment, eviction, foreclosure and real personal anguish,” Ducey said.

Despite his decision not to put in place strict lockdowns, some Arizona counties such as Pima have put in place curfews and tighter regulations.

Meanwhile health officials such as Stephanie Jackson of HonorHealth are asking Arizona residents to exercise their own due diligence in avoiding public areas where the disease can be spread and to order food as takeout instead.

“If you want to keep your friends and family safe, indoor dining at this time is not a good idea. We have extremely widespread levels of COVID-19. So my advice to you would be to order out,” Jackson said.