Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona and Texas have reached record numbers as cases continue to rise in the southern and western states, overwhelming medical professionals.
Arizona reported a record 3,591 new cases Tuesday, with nearly 60,000 known cases in the state overall. The increase in cases comes as President Donald Trump will hold a rally Tuesday at a megachurch in Phoenix.
There was an increase in the number of inpatient beds occupied by positive or suspected COVID-19 patients, with 2,136 beds occupied, compared to 1,992 on Sunday, according to data from the state Department of Health Services.
Meanwhile, 84 percent of the intensive care unit beds were in use in Arizona hospitals and 83 percent of inpatient beds were in use as of Monday, according to the data.
“Every day that I’ve been working in the last month is worse, and what I mean worse is … just overwhelmed by COVID patients,” said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, who works at various Arizona hospitals in medicine. emergency and public health.
LoVecchio, who works with Banner Health, Valleywise Health and Abrazo Health systems in Arizona, said the hospitals have been very good at getting personal protective equipment or PPE for everyone and offering counseling helplines for providers. Hospitals had been doing the best they could, he said, turning space to handle the increase in COVID patients.
But in the rush, the medical staff was running low.
“They complain of exhaustion, physical, mental, many times they are dehydrated and tired,” he said. “I think seven or eight months ago, one of our biggest concerns was nurses, doctors stay hydrated, make sure they eat snacks, sleep well, and rest. That is out the window.
LoVecchio said they had their highest number of intubations last week and, based on what medical professionals have learned from their colleagues in New York and across the country and from medical journals, “the last thing they want to do is put these patients on a respirator, but you can’t let them die if they can’t get enough oxygen in them. “
“We don’t want to do that, but despite that we have our highest number of patients on respirators, our highest number of patients intubated this past week or so,” he said. “We have the largest number of patients in the intensive care unit.”
LoVecchio said the facilities were also beginning to be short of staffing for nurses and respiratory technicians, who help control the fans.
Dr. Michael White, medical director of Valleywise Health Medical Center, said they had seen the largest increase in patients in the past five to seven days.
“As we see an increase in patient volume, we need to continue to make sure we have the right team members, the right staff to be able to care for them,” he said. “That requires people to train in newer roles that they may not have done on a day-to-day basis in order to help in certain situations.”
The percentage of ICU beds that were full was also concerning, he said.
“We get nervous. We can see multiple patients fill those available beds and therefore continue to stretch our healthcare systems as we go, ”he said.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Monday encouraged people to continue to physically distance themselves and wear masks when they couldn’t stay home if they were sick.
He acknowledged the increase in cases, but said there was also an increase in evidence.
“We have increased testing in Arizona by 600 percent since April 15, we have more than doubled testing since we lifted the request to stay home, so we are going to continue the approach there,” he said. “But we are also seeing an increase in positivity, which tells us that the virus continues to spread.”
Ducey, a Republican, said most of the cases were in the 20-44 age ranges.
“This is a real communication and education challenge. Of course, young people want to get together. There are graduation gatherings and events and social events, but by practicing that physical distancing, by wearing masks, you can reduce the transmission of COVID-19, ”she said.
“We are going to make some announcements later this week once we have information on where Arizona is specifically located,” he said, but did not elaborate on what that meant.
“We knew that when we lifted the order to stay home, we would have an increase in cases. The goal has always been so that we can stop the virus. The virus will not disappear soon, ”he said.
The state lifted its order to stay home in May.
Ducey originally blocked local lawmakers from being able to force their residents to wear masks, but on Wednesday reversed that decision. It has not issued a state version of such an order.
Meanwhile, Texas reported 3,280 new cases on Monday, with a recent average of about 3,500 new cases per day. Hospitalizations have broken records there for the second week in a row.
“To say the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and must be cornered,” Governor Greg Abbott said Monday.
Abbott said closing Texas again would always be the “last option,” and there were several strategies to reduce the spread without closing the state, including social distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene, staying home when possible, and increasing testing.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, LoVecchio expected the state’s cases to begin to stabilize.
Hopefully we are reaching our peak. You don’t know what the peak is until it’s a little behind you, but everything that’s happening for us is going in the wrong direction, ”he said.