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Cochise County hospitals struggling to keep up with COVID surge

Posted at 6:13 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 20:13:55-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Cochise County health officials are asking the public to stay vigilant against COVID to help with hospital capacity.

Health leaders held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss hospitals in the county.

They say they need help caring for patients in their own hospital and transferring patients who need more care to larger hospitals.

The Cochise County Healthcare Alliance says it is taking between two and four days to transfer patients to larger hospitals in Tucson.

Specifically, they say the Benson Community Hospital is getting stuck on hold when trying to transfer patients. The Copper Queen Hospital is also struggling to transfer their patients to larger hospitals. Right now, 40% of their beds are occupied by COVID patients.

Health leaders also said the community is dealing with a nursing shortage.

County Health Director Alicia Thompson calls the situation grim. But she says there are things you can do to help even after you catch COVID.

"Every person in our community who has chosen not to be vaccinated can help by knowing how to stay out of the Emergency Room," Thompson said. "When you are diagnosed with COVID-19, ask your Primary Care Provider about receiving one of the therapeutics to keep you from experiencing severe disease. Don’t wait until you are so sick you have to go to the ER."

There are two treatments available to patients that can keep COVID infections from turning severe before hospitalization:

  • Monoclonal antibody treatments
  • Convalescent plasma treatments
  • Use of the antidepressant Fluvoximine to reduce inflamation (FDA approved for treatment of OCD and anxiety in the 1990's)

Pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer are also developing oral antiviral medicines to help treat COVID cases before hospitalization:

  • Merck's molnupiravir works by interfering with COVID's ability to replicate. It could be approved by the FDA this month (November 2021).
  • Pfizer's Paxlovid also interferes with COVID's replication by using a new drug that's made to last longer using an existing HIV treatment.


“Get the treatment as soon as possible after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Our hospitals are at the tipping point and need our residents’ help to avoid having to go to crisis standards of care," Thompson said. "Please do your part.”

The Health Alliance says they're worried these issues will only get worse if our area sees a spike over the holidays. They ask everyone to mask up indoors, stay physically distanced, and get the vaccine.

As of November 24 75% of eligible Cochise County residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine. 64% are fully vaccinated. You can check those numbers yourself with our interactive COVID tracking map here.