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Follow the Numbers: Doctors say yes, conditions improving at Arizona hospitals

Follow the Numbers: Doctors say yes, conditions improving at Arizona hospitals
Posted at 9:48 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 00:48:19-04

Much like recent trends in the data would suggest, some doctors say COVID-19 conditions are trending in a better direction at hospitals across Arizona.

Two doctors, who work at hospitals in various parts of the state, on Monday urged people to continue wearing masks and social distancing. They note recent measures appear to be having an effect as they are seeing fewer COVID-19 patients at their hospitals.
"We're doing a lot to get these numbers down," said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency room physician at Valleywise Health, among others. "It's not over yet. It's not nearly close to being over."

LoVecchio said in recent weeks he has noticed fewer patients coming in due to COVID-19, but said hospitals remain very busy.

"It's getting better," he said. "I think overall it wasn't uncommon to even wait three days and have people actually die while waiting for a bed. Now, it's relatively uncommon to wait more than eight hours or so in the emergency department while waiting for an intensive care unit bed."

According to numbers reported daily by the Arizona Department of Health Services, on Sunday there were 2,017 COVID-19 inpatients at hospitals around the state. That number is on a downward trend and exceeded 3,500 cases in mid-July.

"We hope that we've learned our lesson," LoVecchio said of improving conditions around the state. "We hope that we've learned our lesson from what happened prior, that we're not going to be complacent."

According to a recent modeling report, compiled by Dr. Joe Gerald at the University of Arizona, hospital capacity is improving. The report noted:​

"Covid-related hospital utilization continues to moderate while excess capacity is being slowly replenished. Adequate capacity should be available for the foreseeable future."

"We are definitely seeing the numbers drop a little bit," said Dr. Matthew Heinz, a hospital physician in Tucson. "Which is good, because we were in a non-sustainable surge range."

Dr. Heinz told ABC15 he is seeing fewer COVID-19 patients during a typical shift than several weeks ago, although he is still seeing seriously ill patients.

"These are folks that cannot breathe anymore by themselves in their homes without oxygen support," he said.

Heinz said everyone should stay vigilant as we likely have many more months dealing with COVID-19.

"I don't want to say the worst is behind us because we've already kind of proven that...if we become complacent, if we sort of fall off our guard a little bit, we're going to have a big problem," Heinz said. "We had that big problem. We still have to some degree that problem."