A spike this week in newly reported coronavirus cases is putting added pressure on Arizona's hospital system. Banner Health, the state's largest healthcare delivery system, reports its intensive care units are approaching 100 percent capacity.
The Arizona Department of Health Services, the state agency monitoring COVID-19 numbers, reports that 1,012 Arizonans have now died from the disease. They also reported Friday an additional 1,579 people have tested positive, the most ever reported in one day.
Friday, ADHS also reported the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations to date. Medical centers across the state had 1,234 coronavirus inpatients and 718 emergency room visits.
Banner Health's chief clinical officer said Friday Banner's Arizona ICUs were nearing 100 percent of licensed capacity, and hospital administrators were preparing to add additional beds to expand ICU capacity by 25 percent. All Arizona hospitals have been mandated by the state government to have surge plans to increase their capacity as much as 50 percent, if necessary.
"If the increasing trend continues of what you are seeing up here, we will exceed our capacity," warned Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer at Banner Health.
Dr. Bessel also shared internal hospital data showing the number of Banner coronavirus patients on ventilators has tripled since mid-May. She said 50 percent of the hospitals' adult ventilators are still available for use, so there is not an immediate shortage.
"We are seeing a lot of incredibly ill individuals with COVID, and those individuals are in our hospitals for a long period of time," said Dr. Bessel. "We are asking the public to take steps so we can reduce the transmission of COVID and have that curve go in a different direction."
Dr. Bessel urges people continue to wash their hands frequently, clean surfaces, social distance, wear a mask in public, and stay home if sick.
"There are things we can do so we don't have to go back to an extreme quarantine situation," Bessel said.
This week Governor Ducey indicated the increase in COVID-19 cases statewide was attributable largely to increased testing, but health officials are now saying the end of the stay-at-home order is having an impact, especially when crowds are hitting the nightclubs and downtown streets.
"All of these indicators together tell us there is an increased spread in the community," said Maricopa County Public Health Director Marcy Flanagan.
At Maricopa County's public hospital, Valleywise Health, doctors are seeing more patients who tested positive for coronavirus, but they have only seen small increases in hospitalizations.
Hospitals across the state hit a peak on overall inpatient numbers this week due to a combination of coronavirus and an increase in elective surgeries and other patients. The hospitals averaged 87 percent capacity as reported Thursday, but the number reduced slightly Friday.
"It may keep happening until we get a vaccine," Valleywise Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael White said. "We may see these ebbs and flows or these little waves of this virus as it spreads through the community."