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More than half of ICU beds occupied in Pima County are COVID-19 patients

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 00:36:03-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The State of Arizona reached another COVID-19 milestone Monday. More than half a million Arizonans have tested positive for the virus and that includes the 10,000 new cases reported by the state health department today.

As of Sunday, 91% of all ICU beds in the state are full. There are only nine beds available tonight in Pima County and 54% are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Monday morning, the county reported 96 patients were waiting to be seen in the emergency room---62 were COVID-19 patients.

"That is a function of how many people are within that emergency department compared to the number of staff that are able to handle that kind of an emergency,” explained Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association.

Humble explained hospital wait times could get even worse over the next few weeks.

"If it were back in say September or October, any particular condition, they might admit you to the hospital for some additional monitoring or a treatment plan, but they just simply will not have space within the hospital right now to handle you unless you've got something that is life-threatening,” he explained.

Humble said holiday gatherings in the midst of the pandemic and other activities are contributing to the problem.

Humble said January presents a unique problem because even without the pandemic, he added it’s the busiest month of the year for hospitals.

"You combine that with the fact that we've got, basically, more than half of the hospital capacity needs to be saved for people with COVID-19 illnesses that shows you how much displacement is really happening for people who really need care,” said Humble.

He said the end of January and into February is when hospitals could see some relief if no action is taken by state leaders to slow the spread.

In the meantime, Humble urges the community to stay out of harm's way. He said to avoid New Year’s parties and to shrink your social circle until you can get the vaccine.