This is the fourth day this week, in which the state reported daily increases of over 3,000 cases. This week’s figures are also significantly higher than last week’s rolling average of 2,500 daily new cases.
The state’s health department also confirmed that 2,453 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital – up from 2,270 on Tuesday. The figure includes 611 patients in intensive care beds and 415 people on ventilators. Currently, over 80 percent of intensive care beds and inpatient beds in the state are in use, according to official data.
“Each day I’ve been going into work over the last month is worse, and what I mean by worse is … just overwhelmed with COVID patients,” said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency room doctor in Arizona.
Despite the surge in hospitalizations, LoVecchio adds that hospitals in the state are still managing, with most providing personal protective equipment, offering to counsel health workers and converting space to handle more coronavirus patients.
For many of Arizona’s health workers, the rising number of new cases is starting to take a toll. While hospitals in the state have reported being well-stocked on supplies and having a plan to manage an influx of patients, they have also confirmed a deficit of doctors and nurses.
LoVecchio has reported that health workers in hospitals where he works are starting to complain of physical and medical exhaustion, with most of them overworked and tired.
“I think back to like seven, eight months ago, one of our big concerns was nurses, doctors stay hydrated, make sure you get snacks, sleep well, take your breaks. That stuff is out the window.”
Dr. Murtaza Akhter, an emergency doctor who works in multiple Arizona hospitals, said that he saw a significant increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital for possible or confirmed COVID-19 this week.
“I was quite taken aback,” he added. “It could fairly easily tip over.”
Hospitals in Phoenix are already nearly full, and some ICUs are starting to refuse transfers from other health facilities. Some have even brought in nurses from Colorado to help. The looming impact of the coronavirus is even starting to be felt in rural places like Yuma, where hospitals are starting to see more COVID-19 patients.
The state is also seeing an increase in younger patients being admitted to hospitals. This represents a shift in demographics from the earlier stages of the pandemic when more older adults were being admitted.
Gov. Doug Ducey has allowed counties and municipalities to require people to wear face masks in public. Originally, the governor blocked local lawmakers from implementing such measures, and no statewide order had been issued. (Related: Coronavirus surge across America call states’ reopening plans into question.)
In a press briefing, Ducey also acknowledged the increase in new cases, saying this could be attributed to both increased testing and community spread.
“We’ve increased testing in Arizona 600 percent since April 15, we’ve more than doubled testing since we lifted the stay-at-home order, so we’re going to continue the focus there,” the governor added. “But we’re also seeing an increase in positivity, which tells us that the virus continues to spread.”
He also urged younger adults to practice social distancing and wearing masks, especially during gatherings and social events. Currently, the majority of COVID-19 cases in the state are between 20 and 44 years old.
When asked whether the upswing was caused by Arizona emerging from stay-at-home orders too early, Ducey defended the move, saying that restrictions were lifted with slowing down the virus in mind.
“The virus is not going away anytime soon,” he quipped.
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