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Pima County’s surge in COVID cases, nearing capacity at area hospitals

A look inside the unit for COVID-19, coronavirus patients at Tucson Medical Center.
Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 20:08:55-05

TUCSON, Ariz.-- This week has seen a massive spike in COVID cases in the state of Arizona. It was also reported this week, hospitals in Pima County are near capacity.

“Healthcare system is definitely really stretched, to the point to where there are very few hospital beds really anywhere in the state for COVID patients and non-COVID patients, frankly,” said Dr. Matthew Heinz, a local hospitalist and a Pima County board of supervisors elect.

Turning some Tucson facilities, such as the convention center, into emergency hospitals is an idea that’s been in the works; getting ready to be executed soon if this surge continues or we see another surge during this flu season.

“We’re not really seeing the result of Thanksgiving travel yet. That’s going to be added to the current surge. So a surge on top of a surge. And I am just hoping that people will heed the warnings that they’ve been hearing,” said Heinz.

However, Dr. Heinz says another issue, if emergency hospitals have to open up, could be staffing.

“That’s the difference this time. It sowing to be a lot harder to call in the reserves, so to speak. I don’t know if we’re going to have a lot of folks being able to parachute in, though I am hoping we can pull in some extra nursing support. I know the governor has been working on getting some additional working staff here,” said Heinz.

He says places like Phoenix have already had to use refrigerator trucks because the morgues are at capacity. He’s hoping the same won’t happen for Pima County, if folks are able to wear their masks and stay home.