State reports record-setting day for COVID-19 cases as hospitals near capacity

COVID-19 continue to soar across Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The state health department reported 3,246 new COVID-19 cases, bringing in another record-breaking day for Arizona.

“I think they are alarming,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the Pima County Health Department. “We’re almost in a sense of chronic community transition…and now we have an acute spike.”

Across the state, 84 percent of the ICU beds are full, according to state data, and about 500 of them are occupied by COVID-19 patients. In Pima County, health department officials said only about 5 percent of ICU beds are still available—with about a third of beds being used by COVID-19 patients.

“The ICU beds is concerning,” Cullen said.

Cullen said she feels hospitals will be able to find the bed space. The state has not required another halt of elective surgeries but does outline that hospitals can only resume elective surgeries if they have, alongside additional cleaning and testing, a 14 day supply of personal protective equipment, adequate staffing and bed capacity—with no more than 80 percent of total beds occupied.

“I think they’ll be able to find the beds. I think the issue is whether they’ll be adequately able to staff,” Cullen said. “It’s really up to the hospitals to make those decisions.”

Officials with Banner University Medical Center declined a request for an interview, but said they have enough capacity to care for COVID-19 and other patients, but their ICUs remain “very busy.”

Northwest Medical Center officials also declined an interview, but a spokesperson for the hospital said “We are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients in our hospitals, including receiving a significant number of patients from other parts of the state through the Arizona Surge Line.” Northwest said they are also seeing an increase in patients requiring ventilation, but are, at this time, still performing elective surgeries.

KOLD also reached out to the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, which also declined an interview, but said they are currently treating “several” veterans who are positive for COVID-19, but that most who tested positive are sent home to self-isolate.

“Will we as a state system be able to accommodate that, you know I don’t have an answer for that, but what I know is there’s a lot of people thinking on this,” Cullen said.

PCHD, Banner UMC and Northwest Medical Center reiterated people should wear masks, wash hands regularly and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Banner UMC full statement:

We have enough bed capacity to care for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients at this time. Our ICUs remain very busy. COVID-19 patients require an extensive amount of care – more than what you would expect of a typical ICU patient. It is our sincere hope is that the community exhibits the behaviors that are proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19 so that we can curb the trend of increased COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arizona. This is a deadly virus and we have an obligation to our communities to save as many lives as possible during this pandemic. We ask the community to help us:

  • If you are ill, stay home except to receive medical care
  • Wear a mask when you’re in public near others
  • Stay six feet away from others
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Wipe down surfaces that may be infected
  • Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people

Northwest Medical Center full statement:

We are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients in our hospitals, including receiving a significant number of patients from other parts of the state through the Arizona Surge Line. While we continue to have some capacity in our hospitals, we are seeing an increased census in our ICUs and in patients requiring ventilation. Every patient who arrives with COVID like symptoms is immediately separated and treated as a COVID positive patient until their testing comes back. At this time, we continue to perform elective surgery cases.

We have been preparing for a surge for several months now and have been successful in acquiring additional staffing and supply resources to take care of patients. While we are prepared, we urge the community to continue to follow CDC-recommended masking and social distancing measures.

SAVAHCS Full statement:

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, VA has worked hard to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. We moved most of our appointments, where clinically appropriate, to virtual care modalities. Veterans can schedule a secure video visit with their health care team for non-urgent appointments, this allows our Veterans to take advantage of video visits from the comfort of their home and reduce the need to visit a facility. My HealtheVet is also a great tool for our Veterans to use from home. They can refill prescriptions and use Secure Messaging (sign in required) for any non-urgent questions they have for their health care team.

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) is currently treating several Veterans who are positive for COVID-19. Specific to symptomatic COVID-19 patients, the majority of the Veterans are tested and sent home with instructions to self-isolate. The SAVAHCS has a specialized care team who monitors each Veteran and his/her condition.  Those Veterans with more severe symposiums are admitted to our hospital where we are closely following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and VA COVID-19 guidelines.  Visit https://www.accesstocare.va.gov/Healthcare/COVID19NationalSummary for specifics.

SAVAHCS requires universal face coverings and screens all patients, employees, and vendors prior to entering any VA facility

Veterans and employees with smartphones are encouraged to use VA’s new screening tool. Just text the word “Screen” to 53079, then show these results to screeners prior to entry.

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