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UArizona Expert: COVID conditions entering a 'crisis'

Posted at 8:50 AM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 10:50:48-05

A health expert at the University of Arizona warns COVID-19 conditions in Arizona have the state entering a 'crisis.'

In his weekly COVID-19 report, Dr. Joe Gerald, an associate professor in the Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona writes:

"Even though the same number of Covid-19 cases is yielding fewer hospitalizations and deaths today than in June, Arizona is still poised to overwhelm its hospital capacity unless action is quickly taken."

June saw the early stages of a summer surge in cases and hospitalizations in Arizona.

Dr. Gerald also encourages the reappraisal of government mitigation efforts and reinforcement of adherence to masks and social distancing.

The warning comes as several COVID-19 metrics are steadily increasing once again across the state. The number of COVID-19 inpatients at Arizona hospitals increased to 1,368 Thursday, the highest mark since August 12, when the metric was on a decline.

ABC15 Data Analyst Garrett Archer says inpatient COVID-19 patients are now at mid-August levels, but are increasing at around the same rate they were in early June. ICU beds are increasing at a similar rate, and are also around mid-August levels, but still well below where the state was heading into the peak of the pandemic in late June. 88% of Arizona’s inpatient beds and 86% of ICU beds are occupied, however, these occupation levels have remained largely unchanged since early July. COVID-19 patients still make up a small, but growing percentage of occupied beds in the state.

Various health officials have also noted for weeks that Arizona hospitals are typically busier in the winter as it is, further challenging capacity. Other hotspots around the country could also limit the availability of health care workers who can come to Arizona from other states, if needed.

"Our concerns are the psychological well-being of our nurses, moral distress, that burnout, lack of the ability to provide quality care for the patient," said Dawna Cato, the Chief Executive Officer of the Arizona Nurses Association.

ABC15 also talked with a Valley nurse who said the uptick in COVID-19 patients at her hospital is noticeable.

"A lot of us are very nervous and very anxious," said Brittany Schilling, a nurse at a large Valley hospital. "We just, I think, finally recovered from what we went through back in July and August."

Schilling told ABC15 conditions feel like they did at the start of the surge over the summer.

"So it feels like, why is no one talking about this?" she said. "Why have we not had things addressed at a higher level? Why are we not pulling back on certain things because we do know what's coming."

Schilling asks that you think of the people around you and wear a mask.

"The things that we see at work, I think are what make us the most nervous," she said. "So, not having visitors at bedside, having to hold the hand of someone who is going through COVID and is very anxious without their family there, having family FaceTime their loved one as they die."